It certainly isn’t a new bit of information that commencement at the local high school marks a milepost and is threshold moment for those graduating seniors and their families. The flurry of activity that leads up to graduation each year have become a tradition. However, all that hoop-la can consume parents and students, leaving hardly enough time to think about what it all means. These are big steps for young folks and it’s always a bit melancholy to see those local high school graduates go off into the world. Thankfully there is a tremendously supportive community behind them.

YME graduates have a very nice advantage when it comes to community support. The generous scholarship programs available to YME graduates offer the chance to sidestep some of those high-cost college student loans and really demonstrate the community’s belief in their abilities and their future. This year, because pf generous donations from all corners of the YME community, Scholarship Yellow Medicine East (SYME) was able to offer $68,100 in scholarships to the 34 students who applied for them.

That is an increase of 8.1 percent over the 2018 SYME scholarship totals. The SYME scholarship donations came from individuals, businesses, organizations and even some past years’ graduating classes. Many of these donors were alumni but certainly not all of them. However, they all had a very generous intent: help our recent graduates with some of their college expenses, let them know how much we value them and let them know that we’d love to have them come home, back to our area, after they finish their college or technical education.

These SYME scholarships ranged from $4,000 to $900 per student and average over $2,000 to each student. All students who applied for a scholarship were awarded. In addition to the SYME scholarships, the Archie Bush Legacy Scholarships, made available by the Bush Foundation in honor of their founder Granite Falls native and former 3M senior executive Archibald Bush, provide another $72,000 for this year’s YME graduates. Those scholarships are available for qualifying students who will be attending either four-year or two-year colleges or technical schools.

There is also $800 for two scholarships to YME students, from Education YME, the local teachers’ organization. Together, these add up to nearly $141,000 in scholarship awards to this year’s YME graduates. And that doesn’t count several other private scholarships that are made possible to YME graduates by other private organizations, families and individuals. They add a considerable additional amount of scholarship assistance to our graduates. This all totals up to an amazing amount of post-secondary education opportunity for YME graduates, something that hardy any other area schools have available for their graduates.

Three or four months ago, we bought tickets to see legendary songwriter/storyteller/singer John Prine perform at Northrop Auditorium at the U of M. We hadn’t even thought about the date conflicting with graduation at YME and going to that concert meant we weren’t able to attend a few graduation gatherings around the area. However, it did work out nicely for attending my niece’s twin sons’ graduation party in Burnsville on Saturday. We made a quick dash back to Granite later that day and managed to get back in time to catch the latter part of Charlie Roth’s wonderful singing and guitar playing at the Bluenose Gopher Public House. Charlie is a very gifted performer and songwriter in his own right and played for about three and half hours Saturday evening.

He is from and still lives in Madison but has spent lots of time on the road, performing and recording. He has played all over the United States, in western Europe and Australia. His seventh CD is less than a year old and was recorded in Austin, Texas with several noteworthy studio musicians. He did a great job Saturday night. It was fun to have some very high-quality live music in downtown Granite. Charlie will be performing in our area again on Saturday, July 20th in Clarkfield, during the Clarkfield Cardinal Days celebration.

It didn’t take long. Just as promised and right on schedule, crews from Fagen, Inc. mobilized and began some of the preliminary demolition work and earthwork on Monday for the new YME auxiliary gym, just to the east of the current Espeland Gym. This will be a fun project to watch as it takes shape over the coming months. A project like this is always complicated with utilities to be moved, multiple other systems to be modified and a much-needed rearrangement of the school’s parking area. The new gym space will be a wonderful addition to the school and community and will enable more recreation opportunities and more convenience for families in the YME school district. The generous donation of this new facility by the Fagen family is hard to overstate. YME schools are very fortunate to have this happening. It is an improvement to the school that will serve the public for many years to come.