While the rest of the country may still be stuck in tough economic times, Williston, N.D. is experiencing a period of rapid growth. An oil boom in the town has people flocking from all over the country to this unlikely destination. The unemployment rate here is just 1 percent, blue collar jobs are abundant, and the median income is more than $50,000.
However, the rapid expansion has also produced a unique set of challenges for the city. In addition to the rising cost of city government and skyrocketing real estate prices, the Williston school district has to accommodate the scores of new students who move with their parents. And the growth is not done yet; Steven Guglich, a principal who oversees two schools in his district, says that he expects his student body to double in size in the coming years.
The homeless rate for students is also up. Unemployed parents from all over the U.S. have uprooted themselves to move to Williston to look for work. Viola LaFontaine, the Superintending of the Williston Public School District said that, "five years ago, we may have had 19 [homeless students]. Last year, we ended the school year with 170."
Teachers and staff are working hard to convince students not to drop out amid these circumstances and jump early into a booming job market. They caution against forgoing an education in favor of getting in on the oil boom because, like a similar boom the town experienced in the 1980s, the wells could dry up at any time.
"We try to give them not only the realistics of what you are going to make in each of the levels as you continue in your education, but we also try and talk about, OK, right now, Williston is booming with everything," says Ann Koperski, a student advisor at Williston High School.
"But we also try and make them realize that, you know, OK, as we grow, some of these things are going to start to die off."
"I always tell my kids that it's important to get an education, because back then, it was a different age. And kids nowadays, I mean, some kids, they can't even get a job with a GED," - Stacy Kitzman, Williston, N.D.
1. Why might a student drop out of school?
2. What happens to children when their parents move to a new state?
3. What is the "boom and bust" cycle?
1. What was the most interesting part of this story?
2. Why is it important to finish your high school degree?
3. Have you ever thought about dropping out of school? Why? What made you stay in?
4. How might you convince a peer that is thinking about dropping out to stay in school?
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