On June 2, Anoka-Hennepin Regional High School hosted the district’s first in-person graduation ceremony since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The school had its commencement outside on the front lawn, with speeches from Principal Nancy Clave and students Joetta Cooper and Nikki Peterson.

“Things are going to be terrifying,” Peterson said of what the future holds.

“I was dealt a bad hand of cards in life, but I also know I am not the only one here who is dealing with demons,” Peterson told to the 27 graduates and others in the audience.

She also said all the graduates should feel proud that they’re adults and graduating high school.

“The potential in all of us is endless,” she said.

Principal Clave thanked the support staff and teachers who helped the graduates make it to this point.

With the pandemic wreaking havoc on the students’ normal way of life and learning, the past year brought challenges no one was prepared to face, she said.

Learning from home “was a lot to ask of young people,” Clave said.

Joetta Cooper said before she attended the regional high school she felt a stigma against alternative schools.

“We went through different ways of learning, but we got here,” Cooper said.

While the graduates have achieved a major feat, she said this is not the end.

“Yes, this is a big accomplishment,” she said. “But it shouldn’t be the only accomplishment we achieve.”

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