This class of '89 is girls only
This article ran in the Grand Forks Herald on May 19, 1989
PETERSBURG, N.D. — So, what's the best thing about being in a graduating class with no boys?
“We get to wear pink for graduation.”
The response, if not in unison, was unanimous among the 10 seniors at Unity School. It’s a good thing Jason Iverson moved to Devils Lake a few years ago. He might have been a bit pink-faced over the color selection.
Since he left in the seventh grade, the Class of 1989 at Unity Public School has been all girls. They met at school, because they come from three different communities — Petersburg, Niagara and Dahlen. Unity, like many schools in rural America, is a consolidated district.
When they graduate at 8 p.m. today, they’ll be dressed in pink.
Pink gowns with silver tassels. That seems a fitting end to 12 years of co-ed education in an atmosphere nearly void of boys.
The all-girl class will sing a song at the ceremony.
“The Wind Beneath my Wings,” will be dedicated to their parents. That was supposed to be a secret, but they figured the word would leak out by today.
Dedicating a song isn’t a tradition here. To this group of young women, it’s a gesture they think could make the evening even more special.
“It just fit,” Audra Wixo said.
It fit, too, that the girls should stick together to establish their own senior lounge in the school, Seniors have had lounges before. The privilege was earned and mostly preserved in years past, until the old lounge was lost in a Christmas fire in 1987 that destroyed part of the school.
But when a new addition was built, it didn’t include one. So the classmates lobbied the administration until they got their own. Basically, they had to find room for it. They did, after convincing enough people they could convert a corridor between the lunchroom of the new addition and the classrooms of the end section.
It gave them a place to relax, drink a can of pop, watch TV, or study, without worrying about being bothered by underclassmen. Unity has 34 students in the top four grades.
But they’re no angels. They lost their lounge privileges in April for a couple of days because they failed to clean it up before a group of adults came through.
“We just forgot about it,” Mary Miles said.
They carried on a long tradition of senior class defiance Thursday when they partied at Matejcek Dam — after going through graduation rehearsal.
This week, they talked about things they had and didn’t have, shared and couldn't share, because they were a class with no boys.
“We didn’t have a Snow Ball king,” Julie Northagen said. “We missed Jason.”
“We missed picking on Jason,” Mary said.
But they haven’t forgotten him.
The senior at Devils Lake Central High School sent them a graduation announcement, Julie Northagen and Sheri Reinholz said they plan to watch him graduate Sunday.
“The best thing is we all get to do things together,” Kristin Cottrell said.
Many of them will separate soon. All plan to further their education either at trade or business schools or four-year schools.
Sheri, the senior class president, Julie, secretary-treasurer; Audra, student council representative; and Leslie Donaldson all plan to enter UND in the fall.
DeAnn Slettebak, class vice president, will attend North Dakota State College of Science at Wahpeton, Tammy Nusviken, North Dakota State University; Kristin Cottrell, Aaker's Business College in Grand Forks; Sheila Borgen and Mary Miles, Hair Designers Academy in Grand Forks; and Connie Hanson, National College of Business in Rapid City. S.D.
From there, who knows?
Few of them believe they’ll live in rural Nelson County after school — unless they marry farmers. Some agreed that’s not out of the question.
Three of the 10 are engaged. A fourth “is promised”.
There's one more question that begs to be asked. If there aren’t any boys in the class, did they bother to have a Senior Prom?
Oh yes, they did. It was on the Dakota Queen Riverboat in Grand Forks. And all the girls had dates. But they didn't entertain any Unity underclassmen.
Julie and Audra’s dates were past Unity graduates.
The others traveled from far and wide — from Niagara and Lakota, from Larimore and Bisbee, and from Gilby and Grand Forks.
Like the message of their class motto, which hangs on the wall in their senior lounge. “Don’t let life pass you by. Life is only what you make it.”