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Back to school time has always been my favorite time of year. While I loved being in the classroom and learning new things, I loved the thought of the activities that came along with the school year. From football games, to school dances, to planning homecoming spirit week and beyond, each year I found more ways to be active, which fueled my excitement for my school and community.

I grew up in a small town in Iowa, about 2,300 residents. Friday nights were spent at the football games and anything that happened at the games would feed the buzz around town for the next week. As you can see from my pictures, I started my cheerleading role at an early age. This sport paired well with my dance training (which I began at the age of two), but it also helped me to spread school and community spirit. I proudly wore my orange and black for the Tigers throughout my 13 years in school. This spirit, though, was displayed every day—not just on football or basketball nights or Saturdays by the wrestling mat. It spilled over into spirit weeks, library club, yearbook staff, band, choir, show choir, and student council. Anything I could be a part of for my school I applied my time to (and in case you are wondering, I was a good student, too. I worked hard for my grades).

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This, of course, made my time in school pass by very quickly, but what it did for me, I think, is create a solid foundation for a successful adulthood. I believed in something greater than myself—something that can spread like wildfire. It built my network of people and contacts that I still use today. Until now I didn’t truly understand why I was the 1993 recipient of the Bernie Saggau Award at my high school graduation awards ceremony. Many of my classmates wondered how I was picked, as I wasn’t a four-sport athlete. But I think the staff of my school saw my spirit in everything I did and chose to honor it in that way.

Back to school time now for me, as a wife of a high school teacher and mom of two active kids, means a few different things, but what remains is that spirit. I am still at the football games—not in uniform—but in the concession stand earning money for our programs. Yes, I’m even still helping plan spirit weeks and school dances. But what I hope, most of all, is that I am helping younger generations find their spirit and love for their community and engage in activities that help others see it and feel it, too.

I have traded my orange and black Tigers for Columbia blue and white J-Hawks, but my spirit is the same. School time creates that social time—and that is time well spent!