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'We are here' | Patrick Henry HS principal delivers message for students, staff through prose

Rather than send an email or a letter, Patrick Henry H.S. principal Yusuf Abdullah is supporting students and staff returning from the teachers strike through prose.

MINNEAPOLIS — On the first day of the Minneapolis teachers strike, KARE 11 spoke with Patrick Henry High School principal Yusuf Abdullah to gauge how he was thinking and feeling in a time of certain uncertainty.

Now that the strike is over, Jana Shortal went back to talk to him about lessons learned, and the lesson he wants to provide for his staff and students moving forward.

By the looks of it, Patrick Henry appears — as does any high school — to be winding down a school year. But everyone inside those walls, and in these halls, knows better.

"Well, I definitely learned a lot about patience," Abdullah said. "I feel they learned a lot about just the world as it is, and maybe really start thinking about their place in this world."

Much of the strike coverage focused on contracts — pay, support and equity — which makes sense as those were this issues on the table. But while those were debated and mediated, students weren't in class. 

So when they reported back Tuesday, Yusuf knew what he had to say.

"We got to keep going. We got to show them that the world is going to keep turning, time will keep ticking and we can control not all of it, but some of it. Just let them know we are here to have fun; to learn," he said.

And rather than send an email or a letter home, he decided to put it in prose.

"Whether you are angry, sad, anxious, cautious, concerned, reluctant, worried or feel caged, you are here," he read.

The "here" that he noted on the page is a place with a city surrounding it, a skyline looking over it. The "here" for Patrick Henry, is Patrick Henry — not just as a place, but as a space.

"Whether you feel beaten, lonely, disconnected, disrespected, cheated, discouraged or lost hope, you are here. Whether you feel brave, strong, excited, hopeful, comfortable, cheerful, festive, jolly or free, you are here. We are here."

Abdullah said he wrote the poem to show the students that they are seen.

"I knew they were coming back — human beings with a lot of emotions — and I just wanted to make sure that no one was invisible, and that I saw them."

He wanted students and staff to know that feeling, or not feeling, any one or all of those things is perfectly okay.

"We are in a fragile place, but what I hear is not the knock down, it's the get up," he said. "Get knocked down all day long, but what is going to define us is: Are we going to get up? And I think we going to get up."

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