It is an interesting task to highlight the Hays USD 489 school district. It is easy to point out the many successes our students and staff have accomplished in the arts, academics, clubs and sports. Kansas coach of the year, All-American and All-Kansas high school yearbook, National Merit Scholar, first in league for Hays Middle School girls’ cross country, second at state for girls’ Hays High School golf, sell-out crowds to “Bye Bye Birdie,” students recognized in volleyball and soccer, undefeated season for Hays Middle School quiz bowl, an athlete selected for the Shrine Bowl, and 35 seniors receiving Dane G. Hansen scholarships are some of the successes that can be highlighted. However, these many and varied accomplishments might not be the points of emphasis.

It is the Hays people that stand out. They are kind and compassionate. Either old or young, Hays is comprised of people who have a broader view than just their own hurried lives. They care about their neighbors and demonstrate that in many ways. Children still are taught in Hays to be respectful, and they show that in simple ways, such as opening doors for others.

Hays is a community full of pride and yet not prideful. They embrace values that still are recognized and cherished. Many other towns rely heavily on tending to old structures and museums to maintain their history. It appears the history of Hays lives on through the lessons our older residents still teach their children and grandchildren. These are the simple lessons that probably have more to do with being successful in this world.

Perhaps that is what truly makes Hays different. It isn’t so much the past or the history. It is the character of the people who live on and provide the real optimism for our future. In today’s time, honor and courage are words that seem to exclusively link to the military. That is unfortunate because those are traits that should belong to all our people no matter what job they have.

Being honorable is still a desirable trait in the Hays community, and being courageous is a way of life, not just situational. Character development is an imperative function of the Hays schools, including public and private. The future generations of home-grown leaders will ensure Hays being a thriving community. The highlight to this school district is no more or less the highlight to this community as a whole. It is “we the people.”

John Thissen is superintendent

of Hays USD 489.