This month, Forest Lake Area Schools will celebrate the completion of high school for approximately 520 graduates, sending them out into the world with a variety of important skills, life lessons and memories from their time with us. When they leave our school buildings, our students take so much with them beyond that all-important diploma. 

During their years in our school district, our students have had the benefit of learning from high-quality instructors in core subject areas. They’ve also had the option to pursue their passions and career interests through a wide variety of elective courses. Some of our students will walk off our graduation stage having earned several college credits or career certifications in addition to their high school diploma.

Whether they move on to college, continuing education, careers or military service, our students will take with them the ability to think critically, examine a subject from multiple angles, communicate and collaborate with others. These are all skills that are taught and practiced in our schools to help prepare our students to be thoughtful, contributing adults in our community.

Because we live in a generous community that values our youth and their education, many of our graduates are taking with them financial contributions in the form of scholarships to help them further their education. Our Community Scholarship Foundation and other local community sources gave away more than $350,000 in scholarship funding to our Forest Lake Area Schools class of 2021. These students are fortunate to have been raised in a community that takes an active role in supporting them.

Unique to graduates of the COVID era has been an intensive education for our students in resilience and adaptability. Over the past 18 months, these students have continued their learning despite countless changes and challenges, learned how to cope with new and unpleasant circumstances, and found ways to carry on in the midst of a pandemic. While none of us would have wished for the kind of school year we’ve had, our students have learned important lessons and built important skills that will serve them well throughout the course of their lives.

Being a part of a larger school community helps all of us develop empathy and compassion for others and learn to navigate in a world with people from many different walks of life. Students have developed an interest in causes that are important to them and begun learning how to work toward the changes they want to see in their world.

Perhaps most significantly, our graduates will leave their high school years with cherished memories and lifetime friendships. The shared experience of four years of high school, plus shared experience for some in the elementary and middle school years, has created long-lasting relationships that will carry our students forward as they build the next generation of adults in our community.

Steve Massey is the Superintendent of Forest Lake Area Schools District.

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