For many high schoolers nearing graduation, the senior year is a time of great personal growth as they prepare for life after high school.

That could not have been more true for Big Lake High School’s Rowan Jeffrey, who not only transitioned between the classroom and distance learning as a high school senior during a pandemic, but transitioned as a person coming to be more at peace in his body.

“This year has had many challenges that have allowed me opportunities to learn,” Rowan said. “One experience that has significantly impacted me has been related to my transition as a transgender person.”

The process of coming to terms with my identity, coming out to people, and working with doctors and therapists to find effective ways to address my gender dysphoria has been complicated, Rowan said.

“But it has improved my mental and physical wellbeing over the last few years. Starting hormone therapy a couple months ago was a big step for me,” Rowan said.

Rowan, born Anna Jeffrey, was born and raised in Big Lake. Rowan lives with mother Heather, father Steve, and three fabulous cats - Penny, Lucky, and Dwight. 

“My parents have done a great job maintaining patience, honesty, and kindness while raising me,” Rowan said.

“They have been consistently supportive of me, and they have helped me cope with challenges.  Their treatment of other people and ways of communicating have demonstrated to me how to be a better family member, friend, part of a community, and person in general,” Rowan said.

Rowan hopes those lessons have trickled down to Rowan’s own experiences as a resident of Big Lake and a member of the Big Lake High School community.

“I don’t know if I am a leader in my high school, but I try to help people and learn from those who work consistently for progress,” Rowan said.

Rowan has many peers at Big Lake whose leadership decisions have had significant positive impacts.

“I am inspired by people who are passionate about positive change and improving the world in some way,” Rowan said. “I try to speak up about issues that I think are important both in and out of school, and I try to have better understandings and make better choices than I have in the past,”  

“I try to support friends and other people who are struggling,” Rowan said.

A student recognized as being in the Top 10 percent of the Class of 2021 in terms of grade point average, Rowan plans on attending college at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Transitioning to college began years ago at Big Lake High School, and ended at St. Cloud State where Rowan was able to take college classes as a high school student through a Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program. 

Some of the classes Rowan has taken at Saint Cloud State through Big Lake’s PSEO program have been very meaningful, but a favorite class was offered at Big Lake High School- CIC World History.

World history provides historical context integral to understanding today’s world.  The class did a great job addressing a broad range of historical periods, and Ms. Wedlund always kept class engaging, even during distance learning last year, Rowan said.

“The things I learned in world history have helped me to better understand the world, and have inspired me to learn more about the diverse technological, religious, artistic, and organizational practices of humanity,” Rowan added.

Rowan’s favorite teacher is Mrs. Crocker.  

“While teaching Spanish courses at Big Lake High School, she has always put in the effort to know and help her students.  When students are going through difficult times, she works to support them.  She helps students outside of class hours and provides a wide variety of  resources to help them succeed,” Rowan said.

“There are many great teachers at Big Lake High School.  Mrs. Crocker’s patience, creativity, and dedication to her subject and students makes her stand out to me,” Rowan added.

But its through PSEO classes that Rowan was able to grow further as a student.

While doing primarily online schooling with Saint Cloud State, Rowan learned how to independently manage time and how to work and communicate through online methods Rowan was not always familiar with.  

“I have learned how to respectfully advocate for myself in a larger school system, and how to seek out answers to my questions independently.  Many of my approaches to tasks like reading, taking notes, and writing for assignments, I learned to be more mindful of and to adapt to new expectations,” Rowan said.

Rowan has had so many amazing opportunities to learn new things and make meaningful memories through Big Lake’s PSEO program.  

“The courses offered by Saint Cloud State University have explored many topics I was previously quite unaware of, and have challenged my approaches to schoolwork and time management. This program has been such a significant opportunity for me and it is one of the most memorable parts of my senior year,” Rowan said.

But Rowan was also excited to have the senior year come to a close with graduation on Friday, June 4 on the Big Lake High School football field.

“While there are some things I am nervous for in my future, I am excited to graduate and to move into a new period in my life,” Rowan said. “I am grateful for all of the people who have supported me and who have helped me to get to this point, and I am also grateful for my peers and wish them success and happiness in their futures.”

As Rowan prepares to leave Big Lake for Portland, Oregon, the recent graduate reflected on time spent in Big Lake.

“I will miss Big Lake in many ways, there is so much beauty and kindness to be found in this town, with its people and its landscape, that I will miss.  I am also excited for the future though, and the changes and opportunities it will present,” Rowan said.

“I hope that I have left a positive impact on the lives of my friends, peers, and the other people I have known in Big Lake,” Rowan added.

Rowan is ready to take Portland, Oregon and reach new heights.

“I hope that my passion for learning, personal growth, and improving the world will help me to make a meaningful impact in college,” Rowan said.

Reach Jeff Hage at jeff.hage@ecm-inc.com

Editor

Jeff Hage is the managing editor of the Monticello Times. He majored in journalism at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire.

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