Dakota Ridge at 20

A table of photos and other artifacts dating back to the very first year of Dakota Ridge High School greeted visitors who attended a 20th anniversary celebration of the school’s founding.
The Dakota Ridge community, past and present, came together to celebrate the high school’s 20th anniversary. 

“Dakota Ridge has always been blessed by interested parents. When you have interested parents, you’ve got motivated kids and it makes your job that much easier. But it also makes it more of a relationship that you have with the community,” said Dakota Ridge High School’s first principal, Dr. Ray Smith. 

Dakota Ridge High School was built from the ground up by a group of people passionate about the work and dedicated to creating something special. They started from scratch, which was the inspiration for the theme of the school’s inaugural year and represented by an eagle claw scratching through a piece of paper. 

“We had a white piece of paper to construct, other than what we had with the architects, the drawings and things like that, but even that was in a state of flux…the areas and how the articulated together…what you wanted when you first walked into the building…and what you wanted people to see and feel and experience,” said Smith. 

Current principal, Dr. Jim Jelinek, was excited to have those first members of the Dakota Ridge community return to share their stories. 

“Well I’m a big believer in history and paying honor to those that helped pave the pathway for the exemplary community that we have now…and to see how far we’ve come all with that same level of passion and drive, and intentional and deliberate work to try to do what we can to provide the best culture for our students here,” said Jelinek. 

Current students were just as excited to learn more about their school’s history and the consistent support of the community throughout the past 20 years. 

“I loved hearing about the history and the community. It’s cool because the community was very strong back then and it started with strong roots, and it’s so strong now,” said Dakota Ridge seniorClarisse Eldrige

“I thought it was really cool being able to understand where everything came from and where they got the ideas for mascots, and how they chose the colors, and how they made all the big decisions,” said Dakota Ridge senior Joe Berg

The strength of the community at Dakota Ridge, even in the beginning, is part of what makes the school so special. 

“You can walk into any school in the United States and see a vision or a mission statement,” said Smith. “But rarely do you find a school where they try to make [that] vision visible.”

See more from the 20th anniversary celebration here.