Editor's note: This Guest Editorial shares the perspectives of two high school students who have been working the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce’s “Pride of the Lakes” marketing campaign, which focuses on a topic that’s hugely important in our area — shopping local.

A community driven by care

By Graham Peterson, Alexandria Area High School senior

To most, the significance of Alexandria, MN will only represented by a dot on a map; to others, a team of Cardinals that somehow manages to clinch a spot at the state hockey tournament seemingly every other year; and to all, a utopia for all things water sports.

But for those approximate 13,500 of us lucky enough to live here, Alexandria carries a much more compelling importance. To us, it is a home — the ultimate destination to live, work and play. Much more than just a tourist attraction or marking on a map. The pride surrounding that idea is apparent in everything and everyone in town.

In my case, living in Alexandria my whole life and now beginning my senior year of high school, I never realized the extent of this pride. I’ve always known it was there, and have felt it myself, but its presence became wildly more prevalent with my experience working on the Pride of the Lakes team.

As my affiliation with the "Do Business Local" campaign Pride of the Lakes grew, I began to see how willing my friends and neighbors were to invest in our community. This tenacity was shown in my time spent presenting to various organizations eager to better our community, the growing number of pledges taken on the Pride of the Lakes website, and the influx of touching testimonies written by residents on what our city means to them.

This display of unconditional care and pride became nothing short of inspiring to me. An influential collection of ideals held by a mass of people intent on forming a better life for themselves, their neighbors and their children.

It is said that the hardest part about inspiring change is taking the first step. In the case of Alexandria, leaps and bounds have already been taken. It’s up to us, the residents of this great community to sustain those strides.

If you want to learn more about what you can do to support Alexandria and Douglas County, visit www.PrideoftheLakes.com or Pride of the Lakes on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook!

What this ‘Do Business Local’ campaign taught me

By Abigail Blank, Alexandria Area High School senior

I never really understood the importance of doing business local until my junior year in my marketing class at Alexandria Area High School.

Like many of my other classes, we frequently had guest speakers who would come in and speak to the class. However, there was one specific presenter who delivered a message that stuck with me, Tara Bitzan of the Alexandria Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce. In short, the message she delivered had us really look to see what our community has to offer and to spend our money here whenever possible instead of in another town or online.

I think the part that made her presentation stick out more than others was that the problem at hand (our local economy struggling) was something that I could personally make a difference with through my spending choices. The fact that I could help make a difference was one of the key factors that pushed me to team up with two of my classmates to create a doing business local campaign.

After several months of brainstorming sessions, project meetings, and collaborations with local entities, the Pride of the Lakes campaign was born to promote doing business local in Douglas County. Through the creation of this campaign, I hope to not only make an impact myself, but also encourage others in our community to do the same. This campaign has made a large impact on my spending behaviors. Before, I would always order the things I needed online because of the convenience, but now I try to see if our local businesses have what I need first.

What I found out is that nine times out of ten, the things I need can be found right here. I also realized the great customer service that many of our businesses are willing to offer. The employees all go above and beyond to provide amazing customer service.

Alexandria truly does have everything we need. I encourage you, as a reader, to do two things. First, take a look to see what our town really does have to offer. Whether it’s clothing, food, gift items, services, etc., and second, take the pledge to do business local at PrideoftheLakes.com. This campaign has made a change in my life and it can make a change in yours as well!