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Editorial: Senior High School students show just how Willmar works

The majority of Willmar students get the fact that Willmar is and likely always has been a city of immigrants. The students recognize each other, accept who they are and treat each other as they would want to be treated.

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Hannah Kobienia, from left, and Esther Grussing congratulate Anisa Abdulahi on Sept. 29 after she is announced homecoming queen at Willmar Senior High School. Briana Sanchez / West Central Tribune

The majority of Willmar students get the fact that Willmar is and likely always has been a city of immigrants. The students recognize each other, accept who they are and treat each other as they would want to be treated.

Thus, the Willmar Senior High School selection of Anisa Abdulahi last week as homecoming queen, along with homecoming king Grant Duininck, reflects the students' world of WIllmar.

It was a proud moment for Willmar.

To her fellow students, Abdulahi deserved to be homecoming queen because of who she is and how nice she is. Yes, they know she is the first Somali-American to be voted homecoming queen, but she won because of who she is as a person.

And she is not the first minority students to be part of the homecoming court.

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The Senior High is diverse, with a student body that is 57 percent white, 23 percent Hispanic, 18 percent black and 2 percent Asian.

This generation of students sees themselves as individuals and respect each other as individuals. They are friendly with each other and are not scared to intermingle with others different than one's self.

The respect creates a culture of acceptance, growth and development of all. They value their diverse world.

Abdulahi told Tribune reporter Linda Vanderwerf that her family moved to Willmar when she was a third-grader, and she found the schools to be a welcoming place.

"I feel like they don't judge you on your color, on your race or religion or where you came from," she said. "They treat you the way they would want to be treated."

Diverse students have become a strength of the Willmar School District. Diverse students are excelling at academics and participating in multiple activities. The cross country program has had strong diverse competitors and leaders in the past. Students of all backgrounds are rising to leadership roles in the school.

This year's soccer team - one-third each white, Hispanic and Somali - has good teamwork, according to High School Principal Paul Schmitz. And they have a strong winning record as well.

The Senior High students oppose derogatory and discriminatory behavior toward others. They step up to defend each other when inappropriate comments are made.

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Willmar students are demonstrating the true spirit of the American melting pot, a fusion of nationalities, cultures and ethnicities. They are following the footsteps of immigrants - Norwegian, Swedish, German, Irish and other ancestors - of living and working together to build a better community.

The speed with which lies and hoaxes spread into today's digital world is unfortunate. As we've said in the past, the reality is that much of the current criticism of Muslim immigrants in Minnesota and around the nation is based upon fear, ignorance, bigotry and, for some, just plain racial hatred.

We are proud of Willmar Senior High students and adults for rejecting the fear, ignorance, bigotry and racial hatred espoused by some individuals and groups, both locally and nationally.

These remarkable students are showing just how Willmar works.

That has a nice ring to it.

#CardinalPride

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