The Beauty of White Pine Is in Its People
Posted On:
Tuesday, December 05, 2017
by Becky Murdock, WPCSD Leadership Cadre

White Pine County is a beautiful place to live.  Few would argue that the mountains surrounding our little towns aren’t full of opportunities and adventures: hiking, hunting, photography, fishing, and more.  Few would say that the changing of the leaves in fall isn’t stunning.  The elk, deer, antelope, mountain lions, bobcats, and foxes are plentiful and exciting to see.  But if the aesthetic value of the area was all one saw, the true beauty would be missed.

On a daily basis, the people of White Pine High School never cease to amaze.  This includes adults and students alike.  Kindness is shown, support is given, and a hand up is readily available.  In a day and age of accusations of “bullying” in schools daily on the news, it is important for us to notice the positive nature and character all around. Here are some examples from just this year

At WPHS, we had several open teaching positions to fill this school year.  We found excellent candidates and convinced them to come to our small community miles from everywhere.  Unlike many professions, we don’t offer moving bonuses or incentives to take a new teaching position.  The burden of expense is on the new hire.  For some, it is a hefty burden.  School started in August, which means getting here and ready in early August with no paycheck until late September.  When a couple of our new staff members found themselves strapped and struggling, the veteran staff of WPHS rallied to offer support.  A temporary home was provided, grocery money collected, gas money loaned, and shop time and expertise offered to fix vehicles.  This wasn’t surprising behavior;  it is typical of the staff of White Pine.

Everyday, the news shares bad stories and experiences of high school.  It seems to be human nature to share what goes wrong and to speak of it as the norm.  The students of White Pine prove that good is much more powerful than bad.  It was good that led a senior boy to ask the identity of a freshman boy. “I see him walking everywhere - even in the cold.  I’d like to offer him a ride.”  It was good that inspired a student to gather coats and clothing for her classmates that “don’t have anything.”  It was good witnessed when students lined up to purchase origami figures from a student desperate to make money for her family.  At WPHS, we see these acts of goodness and kindness everyday.  

Student groups and organizations have service projects they conduct every year.  Several years ago, the advisory classes implemented an annual community service project.  During December, the classes determine and plan a project to be carried out the last Thursday before winter vacation. National Honor Society and Student Council hold food drives and put together care packages for families.  There is constant discussion around giving back to our community and each other.  

Several students have joined us at WPHS in recent years from “tough neighborhoods” and “the city.”  Some have attempted to respond to social conflict in ways they were accustomed to in their previous environments.  As you might expect, those responses often included wanting to fight.  Many conferences and interventions have taken place with the students, with the parents, and support teams.  Staff at the school are dedicated to transforming these behaviors, but we rarely have the chance to share our success stories with the public.  

“Jane” joined us from, in her words, gang life in California several years ago.  She was in a fight just a couple weeks after enrolling.  Of course, she was suspended, but we also provided intervention.  We talked a lot - about life, her history, her goals, and her choices.  Life eventually took Jane away from our community and back to California, but not before she saw her options from a different perspective.  She joined Student Council.  She also tried out and made the varsity cheer squad.  She flourished in this place of encouragement and support.

“John” came to WPHS last spring.  His story was much the same as Jane’s, having come from Vegas to join family living in Ely.  He, too, faced conflict and thought the way to resolve it was to fight.  Through counseling with administration, he shared his story.  Initial conversations included much talk about how he needed to defend family and not appear weak.  Gradually, the conversations shifted to instances in which he could see a different set of choices and more positive resolutions that didn’t require “saving face.”  We knew we had him when, in reference to a situation similar to the first near fight, he said, “You do things different here.  I don’t have to fight him.”

The beauty of White Pine isn’t only in the scenery.  The true beauty, the beauty that matters, is in the character and quality of our students and staff.  Stories like the few shared above are not unique, nor are they hard to find.  Rather, it is difficult to choose from the many examples of goodness those which will let the whole community know how truly proud we are to be a part of the WPHS family.