While in my hometown over the Fourth of the July weekend, I had the opportunity to promote a local initiative with my brother, Jorge Prince, who is currently serving as Mayor of Bemidji, Minnesota. It has been an incredible experience to serve locally together in different capacities and cities at the same time. It may be a bit of a unique situation, but I find our story is really a common story that I hear from District 279 scholars many times over.
This past spring, I participated in the mock interviews at Osseo and Park Center Senior High Schools. It’s something I’ve loved doing each year as a board member. Through the interview experience, scholars share their stories and their goals, and they always resonate deeply with me. Over and over again, I hear juniors in high school tell me that their goals include supporting their families, setting an example for their younger siblings, and being the first in their family to achieve something unique – whether graduating high school, going to college, or pursuing a certain career or dream. I hear the same words and experiences echoed from my own family history.
My older brother, Jorge, came to Bemidji as a five-year-old, speaking only Spanish, and he paved the way for myself and my two younger brothers. He was the first to take PSEO classes, the first to graduate college, and the first to enter a career in business. As a teenager and college student, he was working, helping my mom drive all three of us around to our athletic activities and jobs, introducing me to professors at Bemidji State, and basically being on-call all the time as my dad was on the road driving truck. Today, I know many scholars across our district are doing the very same thing for their parents and siblings.
Growing up, we encountered a lot of challenging experiences as a family (I shared some on my recorded interview for board appointment in 2018), but we always had one another to rely on. This spirit of helping each other has always led us to believe in each other and to believe in what is possible for one another and for all people. From a never-forgotten hateful comment to my mom “your kids are all going to fail once they leave high school,” to now “how did you raise such successful children?” it has been a family journey. It has created a deep sense of belief in us that there is no barrier too great to overcome to accomplish one’s dreams and a deep sense of commitment to encourage and support others. I see these values and beliefs lived out across all three of my brothers in their personal and professional lives. I am thankful for my family and my life experiences as it has shaped me to become who I am today and motivates me to continue to work to become the person I want to be.
As we walked along the parade route in Bemidji, Minnesota handing out “I will graduate” stickers and telling kids they have an amazing and bright future ahead, I was struck by the simple message that made kids and parents smile and engage enthusiastically. We need this message, a message that we frankly don’t hear as much as we should from the world around us. It’s time to focus on what is possible, to bring our community to a focused point around every scholar in our district, and to encourage the capability of every young person in Osseo Area Schools. Let’s do this work together.