Richland County, North Dakota, schools have received the U.S. Department of Education’s National Blue Ribbon Award three times since 2013.

The first honor went to Wyndmere Public School, in 2013. The second went to Richland Elementary, Abercrombie, in 2018. The third, for 2021, once again went to Wyndmere Public School. Whether kindergartners or high schoolers, Warbird Nation’s youth shared their success with teachers, faculty, leaders and more at a Thursday, Nov. 4 ceremony.

“I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve got chills running down my spine,” Wyndmere High School Principal Scott Strenge said. “You guys did it.”

Throughout the celebration, there were reminders of how far Wyndmere Public School has come in the nearly two years since the COVID-19 pandemic was first identified in Richland County, as well as successes once in-person learning was able to resume.

“Are there any community members here who just came out because they want to celebrate a rocking school?” Strenge asked. “How about parents of one of these crazy kids?”

Four members of the Brown-Nelson American Legion Post 153 attended the assembly to present an American flag flown at the U.S. Capitol and sent by Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. The moment included words from post member and Wyndmere alumnus Dan Thompson.

“On behalf of the United States of America, and Sen. Kevin Cramer and his staff, and especially our local post, Brown-Nelson 153, it is with great honor and pride that we present this flag to the Wyndmere school,” Thompson said. “The youngest sitting out here can come back in 50 years and see this flag displayed, with today’s date on it and what it was all about.”

The veterans’ presentation and presence was awarded with a standing ovation. Other well-received congratulations came from dignitaries including North Dakota state Sen. Jason Heitkamp and Rep. Kathy Skroch, both R-District 26, state Rep. Sebastian Ertelt, R-District 26 (whose comments were read by Skroch), and on film, U.S. Sens. Cramer and John Hoeven, R-N.D., and North Dakota State Superintendent Kirsten Baesler.

“This year, only 325 schools (of 100,000 across America) were recognized as a National Blue Ribbon school. And Wyndmere is one of those schools. The Wyndmere Warbirds are truly in special company,” Baesler said.

Wyndmere’s recognition as an exemplary, high-performing school is in line with a tradition of excellence, Baesler said. It takes much work to be a Blue Ribbon winner, from not only being a great school to successfully proving the achievement.

“Our next generation of North Dakota leaders is being nurtured in Wyndmere. Our children are 25 percent of our population and 100 percent of our state’s future,” Baesler said.

Being the ones who will lead the future comes with responsibilities.

“I know that Wyndmere will not rest on its laurels and it will strive to be even better in the future,” Baesler said.

Following the speeches, it was time to have some fun. Grades were called down to the gym floor at random to show off their fancy footwork. Performers included the high school juniors, who in addition to being members of the class of 2023, are skilled at the Chicken Dance.

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