Junior REAL Teaches Value of Community, Kindness and Contribution
HURON, S.D. – In the smaller towns of South Dakota, residents wear a lot of hats. Your neighbor may be a farmer, a business owner, school board member or volunteer firefighter, all at once. The importance of community is just one of the many takeaways from South Dakota Jr. Rural Economic and Leadership.
“In a world that is all about apps that can help you send anonymous hurtful snap chats or texts, it is important to take a moment and focus on what makes each person special,” says South Dakota Farmers Union Education Director Rachel Haigh-Blume. “We rarely hear good things about ourselves and focus on the negative. Taking time to learn how kindness to self, others, and community is important.”
Keynote speaker Justine Kougl kicked off week one’s sessions with her “Tour of Kindness.” Kougl’s non-profit aims to empower others through kindness to be the change in their world. She is inspired by her daughter, Quinn, and the loving impact she made on so many while living with Treacher Collins Syndrome.
Kougl and her family ranch in Montana, all while balancing her speaking commitments and keeping Quinn’s legacy alive.
“Being a part of this program is a rewarding responsibility,” says presenter Toby Kane, Sioux Falls, who discusses community service with the students. “There is a real hunger from young adults to make a difference outside of school, and my hope is they leave with a few new ideas on how to do that.”
“The presenters were very heartfelt and sincere in their message,” says Laura O’Connor, an English/Speech teacher at Philip High School. “It’s not just about being a good student, but about growing up to be good people, too.”
Radley Reichert, a senior at New Underwood, agrees, “I took away that little things make a bigger impact than you think. You don’t need something in return for doing something kind.”
Presenter Malcom Chapman made a big impression on Philip senior Mayson Mansfield. “I liked how he said making everyone interact makes a better community and that we all need to have input.”
Practical skills are emphasized too. Things like leadership, public speaking, budgeting and more prepare students with the same quality training larger communities have easier access to. The Jr. REAL program made several stops this fall and continues this spring.
2019 brought Jr. REAL to the following student bodies: Philip, New Underwood, Lemmon, Bison, Groton, Woonsocket, Wessington Springs and Sanborn Central.
–South Dakota Farmers Union
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Outtagrass Cattle Co. cartoon by Jan Swan Wood for the June 19, 2021, edition of Tri-State Livestock News