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Helmut Schmidt, Published February 21 2014

CARE-ing for each other: Fargo South club gives Americans new and old a way to connect

FARGO – It’s 7:30 Wednesday morning and small knots of students fill Room E11 at Fargo South High School.

The nearly 30 students are a mix of ethnicities: black, brown and white, new Americans and Red River Valley natives born and bred.

They huddle together, laughing and joking while bending their brains to the day’s problem at hand: using brittle strands of spaghetti and spongy marshmallows to see who can build the tallest tower.

The diverse den full of Bruins was using the exercise to get to know each other as part of the Cultural Acceptance, Respect and Education club.

Senior Andrew Kelsh, who organized the group with juniors Lydia Hanna and Brady Boeddeker, said the club is about creating connections between South’s varied ethnic groups.

CARE has been meeting for about six weeks. It has T-shirts, a Twitter presence, and members are spreading the group’s message in the commons and at basketball games.

To keep things rolling, they also had a bowling social Thursday.

“There are new people coming every week,” Kelsh said. “People tell their friends about it. It’s really taking off.”

CARE got its start as a DECA club competition project, but Hanna, Kelsh and Boeddeker are now aiming for recognized club status at South.

Marketing teacher and adviser Sara Smith said CARE members are “doing things they normally wouldn’t do” in reaching out to classmates.

Heather Kenkel, a math and English Language Learners teacher and club co-adviser, added that CARE helps her students “feel more a part of the school.”

CARE creates connections that continue in the halls, she said.

“Just creating those opportunities to interact. And then from those opportunities, I think friendships will form that have not had a chance to form,” Kenkel said.

Some of those friendships are already forming.

“I have new friends from this club. I like this club!” said Kumar Basnet, a freshman from Nepal.

Chandra Timsina, a senior also from Nepal, said language barriers are the biggest hurdle to making friends and interacting at South.

The club helps tear down those barriers, she said.

“We have a lot of fun,” Timsina said.

Hanna said she met several of the new American CARE members when they played soccer together last year.

She wants the camaraderie and happiness she felt on the playing field to expand into South’s halls.

CARE is making that possible, Hanna said.

“Every Wednesday I come out of this with a smile on my face,” Hanna said.

Online: On Twitter, Care Moving Forward @CAREmoveforward

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583