Telling Your Story Through Your People

January 3, 2023

The Associated Press published a heartwarming story last year about a 49-year-old night shift mechanic and single father of two who, after nearly 20 years serving in the military, decided to go to college in hopes of being promoted at his factory. 

Once Ray Ruschel got to the North Dakota State College of Science, he also made the bold choice to join the football team – even though he was more than twice as old as his teammates and a year older than the coach.

It's a wonderful tale about perseverance, grit and the celebration of the idea that bettering oneself doesn’t have an age limit.

It was also a major storytelling victory for the North Dakota State College of Science (NDSCS), because sometimes the best way to tell your organization’s story is through the eyes of the folks it is helping the most. 

Never heard of NDSCS? You’re not alone. 

Tucked into the southeast corner of America’s 47th-most populated state by the Otter Trail River and the Minnesota border, the school is a vocational-focused junior college that serves roughly 3,000 students.

NDSCS offers degrees, certificates and diplomas in more than 80 academic options in traditional career and technical studies, as well as the liberal arts. The college also offers a variety of distance education and online courses, and it has been dedicated to serving North Dakotans (and beyond) for almost 120 years. It’s exactly the kind of place where a middle-aged veteran, single father of two can better his life and the life of his family – and maybe even try his hand at a sport he hasn’t played for more than 30 years!

But because of its location in tiny Wahpeton – population 7,890 – and the perception that there just isn’t that much interesting about junior colleges, the school has often struggled to tell its story to a wider audience.

Enter Ray Ruschel.

As the article makes clear, it’s impossible not to root for Ray, a night-shift mechanic at a sugar beet factory. But in telling Ray’s story, the article also shows the reader how NDSCS is helping Ray achieve his goals through the variety of services it offers. So, the reader walks away inspired by Ray’s story, but also has a deeper appreciation of what a school like NDSCS can offer.

“Our institution loves it. Our administration loves the attention. It’s great marketing,” head coach Eric Issendorf said. “But it’s also a really good story.”

And it’s the kind of story your organization might be able to tell – if you can find the right person with a story you can share with the world. 

Who’s your Ray Ruschel? Take time to ask around and look… you might be surprised at what you find! 

Blog by Luke Meredith