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Citizen's View: Open minds will calm the waters, unite community

I’m a very fortunate guy whose life has been greatly influenced by this Lake Oswego community.

My family moved here from Colorado in the mid-70s and I attended Lakeridge High School. I found Lake Oswego to be a little “utopia,” where people were friendly, genuine and had a sense of togetherness that welcomed new community members.

I NEVER remember a feeling of walls and boundaries within the city, but I do recall many great outings and gatherings that were about the entire community.  I wasn’t here a year before I realized that I wanted to someday return to raise my family here and hopefully make a difference in the lives of young people.

I have had the privilege of being the head football coach at Lake Oswego High School for 23 years, but I consider myself more of a community member than a coach.  I believe in teaching our players about life, not just sport.  The game of high school football shouldn’t dominate conversation in our community, nor should it be a source for conflict.

There are approximately 200 kids who play football at our two high schools, so having this be at the center of so much tension within Lake Oswego is unnecessary and unfortunate. This notion that we are either northsiders or southsiders is ludicrous.  We are colleagues and neighbors who compete against each other on a football field one night a year.

As we work to unite our community, we need to celebrate our traditions and respect our history. However, we also need to continue to embrace new perspectives and new voices. I have talked with new Lakeridge football coach Elvis Akpla, who has been in our community for about two years, and we’ve discussed how we can help end the infighting. But we can’t do it alone.  Superintendent Heather Beck has provided and continues to provide valuable leadership and direction as a newer member to our community.

We shouldn’t put a time limit on somebody by telling them they haven’t been in our community long enough to be a leader and contributor. Open minds and fresh eyes are healthy, helpful and healing.  To say someone can’t give this community valuable input and make a difference because they haven’t lived here long enough is a mistake. The benefit someone can bring with a new perspective and not taking this special place for granted is priceless and would be welcomed anywhere. Individuals who don’t have preconceived notions or biased opinions can be very valuable in decisions being made for the good of our whole community.

We need leaders who listen, respect each other and work together for all our students.  If you read the comments in the paper and talk with your fellow community members, it’s hard to say that has been the case the last few years. The upcoming school board election is critical, and we should become educated and informed about the candidates and the issues.

I love our community and believe that we can have a great impact on our young people.  My family, like many of yours, moved into this community because of the genuine togetherness that was evident on every street and in every neighborhood.  Let’s not waste additional resources and energy dividing ourselves, but instead look for opportunities to wipe the slate clean and unite our fantastic community in the years to come.

Steve Coury is the head football coach at Lake Oswego High School.

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