The final chapter of another school year has been written, and it was a year like no other.

Cases per 10,000 took on a new meaning. Hybrid learning was the new normal for most of the school year. Shakopee Online offered a new learning method for 20% of our K-12 students. Playgrounds were divided into quadrants at our early learning center and elementary schools. Mask wearing was awkward but kept our school community safe. An extremely creative radio production was put on by the theater department. Students played at athletic events or participated in activities sometimes without fans or by invitation only. Prom was held for Shakopee seniors only with a unique layout. And the list goes on.

However, the final chapter of the school year could be titled “Somewhat Normalcy.” For the final seven weeks of the school year, all IHD (in-person, hybrid or distance learning) students returned to the classroom, everyday, for the first time since March of 2020. A musical at the high school was executed magnificently. Spectators were allowed at spring sporting events. And best of all, graduation will be celebrated on June 12 at Grace Church as we originally planned.

Our students and staff did a remarkable job during a school year filled with many positive memories, but also challenges, uncertainties and disappointments. Over the past few weeks, we have celebrated the many accomplishments of our senior class at several different events including the senior awards program, AVID senior graduation and the Feather Ceremony for our Native American families.

All of these accomplishments would not have been possible without the pure grit that our students have shown over the past couple of years as life was fractured by a global pandemic. Lives were impacted in unprecedented ways and presented challenges that no one would have ever imagined. However, our students, staff and families found ways to be resilient which is truly something to be proud of.

The challenges that presented themselves this past year have taught our students many things including how to be flexible, have perseverance, be organized, and value relationships. These valuable skills will help propel you, our Saber Seniors, well into the future.

The future is bright, graduates. It is bright because you are about to turn the page and write a new chapter in your life that will be filled with dreams, beliefs and passions. Use your voice, serve others and make a difference. While you are chasing your dreams, be open to new ones. As your skills and interests change, don’t be afraid to try something new or chase a new dream. Our future is dependent on all of you.

In the book “The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse” by Charlie Mackesy, the horse said to the boy, “Always remember you matter, you’re important, you are loved and you bring to this world things no one else can.” Remember that your smallest contributions can make the biggest difference.

Congratulations Class of 2021! We are Shako Proud of you!

Kristi Peterson is the chair of the Shakopee School Board. Peterson also serves on the finance, community engagement, and citizens’ communications advisory committees. Peterson was elected to the school board in November 2018.