Empowering the youth

Kristen Baesler spoke about education during the College Republicans meeting

North Dakota superintendent of Public Instruction, Kirsten Baesler, spoke at a North Dakota State College Republicans meeting on Oct. 2 in the Mandan Room of Memorial Union.

After getting to know the audience, Baesler began her speech by helping the group understand her position and what she does.

Baesler said her job is: “To oversee, work with our legislators, work with our governors and our federal representatives to make sure that all 114,000 students in the state of North Dakota in 178 school districts in over 480 school buildings have what they need in both appropriations and resources.”

Baesler then went on to describe a challenge in education today saying, “The world is no longer rewarding young people for what they know. The world is only really rewarding people for what they do with what they know.”

This addressed how people feel that schooling has not changed over the decades. 

Baesler talked about her youth and the doubts she has had in the past. “When I was a senior in high school, I never, ever, ever thought that I would be working in the capital having dinner at the Vice President’s house having meetings with the President, having daily meetings with our Governor.”

Baesler’s father worked as the Commissioner of Zoning and Planning. “As a 6-year-old, I was dragged to meeting after meeting. I would watch all of this engagement, all of these people having conversations with each other. Adults making decisions on what was best for our community, our state.” These were experiences that would influence her life later on.    

Baesler then discussed her journey through the ranks of the North Dakota educational system. She began as a part-time instructional assistant while studying Pre-Law in college which led to the position of state superintendent. 

While she was working as a Vice Principal, she was very involved in various boards. “Community boards, library boards, economic development boards, trying to make the best difference that I could in my community.”

“We were going through a pretty difficult time. Our scores were really really low in Mandan and it was because we had a bunch of big people,” Baesler said.

“We had a bunch of adult arguments going on about buildings and our teachers were fighting with our school board and there was all these adult arguments. We weren’t really focused on what we needed to do for our students anymore.”

This is a phenomenon she still sees today, a sort of disconnect between the youth and the adults in charge of their needs.

Baesler ran for superintendent after serving nine years as a member of the Mandan School Board, seven of which she served as President. At the Republican convention, she won the endorsement beating her opponent David Monson who she states people knew a lot better. Monson is now one of her strongest allies.

At the end of her presentation, Baesler stated, “Never along that way did I do anything because I  wanted to do something next.”

Her favorite motto has been, “Luck is preparing yourself for your next opportunity. It’s always about preparing yourself, opening yourself up to different opportunities, different experiences because you never know who you might meet, what experiences you might have that might lead to the next thing.”

While on a panel in Washington D.C. last week with people from the U.S. Department of Education as her audience, Baesler said, “I have never seen a better generation than I have this one. And until we start empowering them and delivering to them what we as adults need to do is set your table for success. Sometimes get out of your way and really empower you to be the leaders that you can be and should be.”

“I am so very frustrated that we don’t have enough of your voices in the meeting that we have,” Baesler said.

Baesler then opened the floor to questions, listening to the voices of the youth gathered before her. 

Before she left, Baesler was asked if she had any messages to empower the youth of NDSU to which she replied, “This is your future, help us adults understand your needs so we can help you accomplish the things that you need. You are your own best advocate; adults need your voice.” 

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