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Students played key role in 1997 flood efforts

Prakash Mathew still has his commemorative 1997 flood T-shirt from the several days that college students and staff pitched in to help. "The reason we saved the city last time is we were ready," said the North Dakota State University vice preside...

Prakash Mathew still has his commemorative 1997 flood T-shirt from the several days that college students and staff pitched in to help.

"The reason we saved the city last time is we were ready," said the North Dakota State University vice president for Student Affairs.

During past major floods, local high school and college students have played a significant role in fighting the floods.

"The kids basically saved the community," Fargo Public School spokesman Lowell Wolff said about the 1997 and 2006 floods.

Area schools canceled classes or released hundreds of students to help sandbag.

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"It was such a massive community effort," West Fargo High School Principal Gary Clark said. "They were really critical to the effort."

At NDSU, students, faculty and staff were bused to the city sanitation garage to help sandbag. They nicknamed themselves "Garbage U."

Thousands of college students volunteered hundreds of hours that month, spending much of April "dressing down" to be on guard to help with any flood-fighting efforts.

A 24-hour station was even set up in Memorial Union, acting as a base to send out volunteers on buses every half-hour, Mathew said.

"The university students ... played a huge role in saving the city," he said. "It was something else."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kelly Smith at (701) 241-5515

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