Who doesn’t love a good story? A story about high school sports – even better. In this month’s feature, our editor, Cally Peterson, captures the story of two incredibly driven, hardworking athletes and the role supportive coaches played in putting two newcomers on a trajectory for success.

I actually pitched this story idea to Cally almost a year ago, after watching these two compete at the high school state wrestling tournament and learning more about their backgrounds. And there you have my bias. Yes, I was a wrestler back in the day, albeit not a very good one. I love the sport and follow it closely. Wrestling, and the people in it, taught me a great deal about hard work, self-discipline, teamwork and independence. Most importantly, wrestling taught me about community. Some may even call it family.


Today, I am a parent to young wrestlers, and I’m also a “dance dad.” Both of these sports join a long list of extracurricular activities available to youth through schools and clubs that teach valuable life lessons and build character, but don’t always grab the headlines.

No matter the activity, whether it be athletics, music, speech, drama, student government, a service club, or you name it – each has an appeal and a community of committed folks that teach, inspire and help others belong.

But that’s the purpose of community, right? To create a place, or an affiliation, where one feels welcome, like they belong to something greater than oneself. Community is the essence of many important things in our lives – the teams or clubs we belong to, the places and spaces where we live and work, and our cooperatives, too. The spirit of the co-op model is built upon – and for – community.

That sense of community, in my view, is strongest in rural America. It is a lifeblood. It is valued in our towns, local schools, sports teams, cooperatives and other institutions. It is the reason why we volunteer as first responders, serve on the city council, cheer loud at ballgames or dance meets, and participate in electric cooperative programs like Operation Round Up, by rounding up our electric bills and donating that change to local organizations and people in need.

One thing I hope we realized during this pandemic was just how vital connection and community are to our well-being. Maybe that’s found through a local sports team or school club that allows us to be fans, parents or spectators. Perhaps it’s a job you love and colleagues who lift you up and inspire. Or maybe it’s staying connected to your local electric cooperative by reading North Dakota Living each month.

As cooperatives, we value community. It is an honor to provide this powerful platform we have in North Dakota Living to share stories that connect us to one another and capture the diversity, uniqueness and power of our communities.

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC. Contact him at jkramer@ndarec.com.