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Student voices: An amazing summer

It is difficult to avoid clichés upon starting another school year, and especially upon beginning my senior year. Since this is unavoidable: I had an amazing, memorable summer, and I cannot believe I am already a senior in high school. What I have an even harder time accepting is how much has changed these past three years in terms of my personality, friends and priorities. Of course, I have also grown an incredible amount as a student and learned and accomplished more than I would have ever thought possible on the first day of my freshman year.

Academic growth is obviously important and is my top priority as I begin applying to colleges, but this summer has reminded me that there are some things you cannot learn from a textbook -- a real experience is required. Since I had time to branch out from my usual occupancy of homework this summer, I had the opportunity to live some of these invaluable experiences.

The most rewarding of these came in the form of my second mission trip. This year, I traveled to Booneville, Ark., a small town plagued by unemployment but blessed with numerous positive community members and organizations working to improve residents' lives. Simply interacting with some of the people I met taught me more than one can imagine about happiness, positivity, gratefulness and, broadly, life. Immersion in a completely different community for a week gives you a completely different perspective of humanity as well as your blessings, which I still carry with me every day back home.

Turning a completely new page, I also had the opportunity to see various local music acts throughout the Twin Cities this summer. Some people develop pride in where they live from sports teams, schools, or neighborhoods, but I get that pride from our music. It is an inspiration to see musicians in my own backyard making a living doing something they love in a place that I love. Seeing them perform in the place that built them up, and the place they trust to support their artistic endeavors, is invaluable. It reinforces that I have chosen an amazing place to live that perhaps I will be leaving in a year (I had to tie in my senior year again, didn't I?).

This summer I experienced two amazing, but very different communities, one of which I have belonged to my whole life, and the other where I was only a guest. Yet through their similarities, I realized how important it is to have a close-knit community, however large, that you can be proud of, whether it is for their hospitality, arts, sports, or spirit. As I begin my last year in Rosemount, I hope to apply everything I learned in Arkansas so my memories are all the more meaningful -- and soak up the pride of an amazing community before I leave it.