Living in a small town such as Bonners Ferry comes with many advantages. While people may differ in their response to how it has benefited them, it is likely they will agree that living in a small community has the blessing of knowing your neighbors and having the support of the community when needed. Simply said, it is a feeling of family.
For students at Bonners Ferry High School, that same atmosphere can be found in the hallways, classrooms and offices where they spend a majority of their time. And it is not just the teachers and staff who lend their support and build relationships with the students; it is the entire community.
Bonners Ferry High School Principal Kevin Dinning, who is also a 2001 graduate of Bonners Ferry High School, cites many examples of how the community comes together to support the approximately 440 students enrolled at the high school.
“The community supports the school and our students through attendance at extracurricular and co-curricular events, working with the Booster Club, volunteering to support our many clubs and student groups, and participating as judges with student business projects and senior projects,” says Dinning. “Local businesses in the community support our students by allowing seniors to job shadow, sponsoring activities, donating money to the school, providing scholarships to graduating seniors, and helping us provide for students in need.”
It is important to Dinning that the feeling of family is prevalent each and every day at the school.
“We have a focus this year to look at our school as a family, both staff and students. Currently, leadership students are creating posters that showcase the different perspectives students and staff can have on the same situation,” says Dinning. “These kind of efforts produce more empathy and understanding in our school, and they ultimately work to provide a more compassionate life for the people in our building.”
Giving back to the community is another theme that is important to the Bonners Ferry High School staff and students. Both the leadership class and the Future Famers of America students participate in school competitions to provide food for the local food bank and to support families in need during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
Since graduating 16 years ago from Bonners Ferry High School, Dinning says he has seen many constants, though there have been many changes as well.
“Our family focus has brought on some more school spirit, and I am proud of the students at Bonners Ferry High School. However, students have different choices and more responsibilities at a young age than I did,” he says. “Many of our students are already navigating college while attending high school.”
Dinning also notes that almost all students have cell phones and are tasked with having to learn digital literacy and responsibility in ways that are ever changing.
He adds that with the increased opportunities with more classes, clubs, jobs and entertainment than when he was a teenager, there is also increased social pressure. “We try and help them navigate the process of being a teenager while living in a society that continually asks them to be an adult,” says Dinning of providing support to the students.
But it is not just the students who feel the support from those at the school; it is the staff as well. Last fall, Dinning and his wife welcomed their son, Henry, into the world. However, they were required to be in Spokane for most of November and December.
“The staff and students at Bonners Ferry High School were an amazing support system. It was overwhelming,” he says. “Students and staff were constantly giving us cards, notes, meals and anything that they felt would help us. It was a reminder of what kind of people this community produces and how fortunate we are to live here.”
As principal of the school he attended as a teenager, Dinning has many goals—ones that go beyond academic success.
“It is important to me that Bonners Ferry High School students graduate with an understanding of how much they impact those around them,” he says. “If students can leave BFHS with the mindset that they change others’ lives through their daily interactions with them, I know they can be successful citizens in our community.”