Haley Lancaster, Vincennes, IN

A unique history of "firsts" are the pride of this small Indiana town

April 4, 2020 |

Too often, students in rural communities feel as though their place doesn’t matter. Through the advent of the Internet, students do have a more global perspective. They can learn from, speak, and virtually visit beyond their town boundaries. This is awesome, but I have also seen it make kids feel very small in their sense of place.

Vincennes, Indiana may be the county seat, but it’s rural. Over half of the city school corporation’s students are on free and reduced lunch. We are not remote, but we are, an hour in either direction — north or south — from a large city, in two hours southwest of Indianapolis. Some of our students will never go to our own state capital. Viewing professional theater and sports are privileges few receive.

In feeling small, they feel their city doesn’t matter. So it is my job, and the job every other adult and educator in the city, to celebrate our rural place. It’s a city of firsts.

Founded in 1732, we existed before this nation did. When George Rogers Clark waded through the floodwaters of the Wabash in February 1779, his victory in capturing Fort Sackville here secured a body of land that doubled the size of the colonies.

We were the first territory capital. First college in Indiana? That was here. First brick home of the Indiana territory? That was here too, and still is. Indiana’s first newspaper? Here.

All midwestern roads flow back to old post Vincennes on the banks of the Wabash. We helped make a nation.

And this community helps create us, and we carry that identity wherever we go. I want to acknowledge the smallness that students may feel, but I want them to know that it doesn’t limit them. Being from a small town doesn’t make you less of a person. Being from a small community can make you stronger.

Clark himself said, “Great things have been affected by a few men well conducted."

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