GRANVILLE It was a history making event for a small town school, a first-ever visit by a United States senator and all because of a brief letter written by a young North Dakotan.
Kimi Ofsthun, a 19-year-old employee at Towner-Granville-Upham's Granville school, wrote Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., with a request that the senator visit the Granville school.
"It would be an honor and a thrill to have you come to our school," wrote Ofsthun. "I know the students would learn a lot and be very excited to meet you."
Kimi Ofsthun, center, smiles while deciding on what vegetables to eat during a lunch break with Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., right. At left is Kimi’s mother, Dora Ofsthun. The trio was about to enjoy a school lunch following Hoeven’s appearance at the Granville school. Some of the vegetables were grown in the school’s garden.
Hoeven responded with a visit to the Granville school Friday. He was greeted by cheers from students in grades kindergarten though 12 when he entered the school's gymnasium. He was accompanied by Ofsthun. A youthful choir sang a medley of patriotic songs which included the "Grand Old Flag" and "America."
Shortly thereafter, Hoeven was introduced to students who had filled the gymnasium bleachers. He asked for a show of hands to indicate the numbers from each grade. He also thanked the students and faculty for their enthusiastic hospitality.
Of particular interest to Hoeven was a garden located at the school. Hoeven has been instrumental in passing legislation aimed at improving flexibility in the requirements for school lunch programs. Students at the Granville school harvest home-grown vegetables and include them in noon meals served at the school.
"As I work on the school lunch program nationally, this is a school that I can talk about that's doing something no one else is," said Hoeven. "I've got to say TGU is doing some things I've not seen done anywhere else. It shows how great our kids are. This fits in with legislation we're passing in Washington. It affects every single school kid in the nation."
Ofsthun accompanied Hoeven throughout Friday's appearance, including joining the senator for a school lunch featuring an abundance of fresh vegetables.
"It was pretty cool to meet John Hoeven. It was something I've wanted to do for a very long time," said Ofsthun. "He's my hero."
"I'm bursting with pride. I'm going to cry," said Dora Ofsthun, Kimi's mother. "I'm so proud of her. It is a very special day."
During his visit Hoeven repeatedly referred to "one of the nicest letters I've ever gotten" when responding to questions about his visit to the school. He also had some words of encouragement for students of all grades.
"No matter where you come from, a school large or small, believe in yourself because you bring strengths no one else has and you can achieve anything you want to achieve," said Hoeven.
Tonya Hunskor, Granville K-12 principal, welcomed Hoeven to the school and presented him with a TGU T-shirt. The students cheered when Hoeven held up the shirt.
"It's a fantastic day," said Hunskor. "Kimi has gotten the kids wired up with her enthusiasm. It goes to show how a young person with some desire and initiatives to do things the right way can really make things happen. It's history in the making to be a part of this."
Kimi Ofsthun assists with preschool and kindergarten classes at Granville and also helps in the kitchen.