As the new school year opens, keep students in mind

Star Herald Editorial

Thousands of preschool through 12th-grade students entered schools throughout the area this week.

It’s a fresh start.

A clean slate.

A new way to start over with a positive focus on the tasks at hand.

Most importantly, the new school year is a chance for young people to learn to communicate and understand that, while issues seem overwhelming, there are ways to overcome them.

This summer the Luverne community experienced the loss of Daniella Gacke, who took her own life at the age of 13.

She would have been an eighth-grader in Luverne Middle School.

The school’s doors opened without her, and her absence was noticed in the classrooms, hallways and locker rooms.

It’s too late for Dani, but there are others who could use a boost.

In this week’s Star Herald we can see there are sincere professionals working on behalf children to nurture their academic and emotional wellbeing.

Allison Eitreim, a 1992 graduate of Luverne High School, heads up the Regional Autism Networking Group in support of children with autism spectrum disorder. Her 22 years in education has shown her that students can look forward to rewarding futures if we as a community understand their needs.

Anyone can attend Eitreim’s quarterly meetings to learn how. It boils down to positive encouragement to counter what might seem insurmountable hurdles. Suicide is preventable.

Vonda Viland (LHS Class of 1984) works with at-risk students in California. As a principal at an alternative learning school, she and her staff are often the last chance for students to receive a high school diploma.

Viland recently addressed Luverne teachers and administrators (see the story) to emphasize the value of positive student interaction and crisis intervention.

Dani’s parents, Tony and Wendy Gacke, are encouraging these very efforts — essentially talking — as they open their rural Luverne home to students and parents.

The Luverne School District released a public invitation encouraging people to attend the commemoration of Dani’s life.

The Celebration of Life, “Rock It With Dani,” will take place over three days.

Senior high students are invited to the Gacke farm from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10.

Sixth- and seventh-grade students are invited from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11.

Eighth-graders are invited from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 14.

Participants are invited to paint rocks with messages of life, hope and kindness for Dani’s memorial garden. While the rocks dry, the group will enjoy s’mores and share with Dani’s family about the impact of her death on family, school and community.

Rides are available to the Gacke farm, 549 150th Ave. ­ Meet 15 minutes prior to the events’ start times at the school.

As classes resume, Luverne staff put up inspirational sayings in the middle school bathrooms.

One saying, “BElieve in YOUrself,” with the hidden “Be You” inside.

Words for all of us to take to heart.

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