February 19, 2020


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

The best people to tell others who are looking to relocate to Watford City about the virtues that the community has to offer are those that love it. Businesses do that when they are recruiting new employees by having existing employees reach out to prospective candidates and colleges do the same thing when they are trying to attract new students.
So why shouldn’t Watford City use the people who love our schools and the community in the same format when it tries to encourage men, who are working and living in our community, to bring their families here?
While it is maybe a radical thought to some, it was not to Pat Bertagnolli, who previously worked to recruit oilfield-related workers to Watford City for several area companies. He knew that it was relatively easy to attract the male workers, but it was hard to retain them. The employee retention problem was directly related to whether or not these men brought their families with them or if the wife and children remained in another state. The longer the families were apart, the more likely it was that the men would move back home. And families with children were hesitant to make the move to Watford City because they didn’t know anything about the community, the school system, or what activities they would find here.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t an easy answer to those concerns until recently when Bertagnolli and Watford City High School teamed up to form a student ambassador program. Under the program, high school students, both those who grew up here as well as those that have moved here with their families, share their stories of success in our schools with people working in the oilfield. And they visit with prospective students on the phone or when they come to the community to visit their fathers.
And so far, the program seems to be working. It is breaking down some of the barriers of the fear of families to relocate to a new community. They become the friendly and welcome voices that mothers and children need to hear. And they become the smiling faces that the families will see when they come to town either on a visit or making their relocation decisions.
Speaking as a parent whose two sons were student ambassadors when they attended college, the program does work. They could sell the merits of their college to a prospective student better than could any admission director. They knew the campus, what student life was like and could answer the questions that only one student would ask of another.
If the student ambassador program works well, it can be a great asset in helping to grow Watford City into the family community that we all hope it will become.