Welcome back to the students in the Cedar Valley for the 2020-2021 school year! Seems crazy to actually be back in school while still navigating this pandemic, doesn't it? I know it has been a crazy year but as we return to some semblance of normalcy with the school year starting up, I felt I needed to really speak to students to help encourage them to make the best they can out of these strange times while getting their education. This open letter is for high school and college students entering new phases of their lives.

It has been a time of unease and navigation recently but how you adapt to this situation while getting your education will reveal your character and how you will be able to adjust to life beyond education. The most important thing is to learn as much as you can while in school and I am going to give you a list of tips to help you do that. Education is the backbone to all of your success in life and making memories while in school will help you to be successful in your career and personal life. So here are my list of tips to success!

1. Pay attention! In both the classroom and outside of school. Avoid getting sucked into the black hole of social media and realize there is life beyond technology. Pay attention to your education and what is happening in around you in the world because this is where you will learn the real lessons in life.

2. Soak up all knowledge you can. You can't know everything (trust me I keep trying) but you can always keep learning to try to be ready for the unknown. Knowledge is power and with the right amount of knowledge you will be unstoppable.

3. Dream Big. Whether it is to be a famous actor or singer or to have your own business, your limitations only exist when you put them on yourself. Dream beyond what you think you can do because in the end you will do it and you will be amazed at what you accomplish. Visualizing your success is the first step to making it inevitable.

4. Make lifelong connections. It's all about connections in today's world when it comes to your career or personal life. Make those connections early in school- maybe you will have a lifelong friend you can turn to for support or you become a teacher because of one who inspired you and you are able to learn from. Whatever the connection is, it's important to make them in school to grow.

5. The most useless knowledge can become the most important. I was just like you all in high school taking classes that I didn't think I would ever, EVER use in my adult life and now some of that knowledge has come in handy. Soak it all in, even the most random facts because who knows when you can use them again.

6. Don't grow up too fast. Enjoy the freedom free from responsibility. Trust me when I say you are going to miss it. I am not saying being an adult is a horrible thing, I am just saying to enjoy a light mind while you have the time. Make those memories you will look back on and laugh about or be reckless and make mistakes. In the end, life is all about the memories you make not the financial success you have.

7. Don't be afraid to make mistakes! You have probably heard this one before right? Well, it is true! Look I am a perfectionist and used to be so afraid of making mistakes, I would make myself physically ill worrying about making mistakes. That was until I realized that without making mistakes, I was not able to grow. I was stuck and if I wouldn't have opened up my brain to the idea of making mistakes, I would not be where I am today!

8. ASK FOR HELP. This is huge for me! Asking for help is not a sign of weakness or admitting defeat. It is a sign of wanting growth and to be successful. Never be afraid to ask for help because those who don't are cowards who won't go far.

9. Finally- you do not have to have it all figured out- EVER. Look, I am about 2 years out of college now and if there is one thing I have learned about being an adult is that no one has it all figured out. If they say they do, they are lying to you. I didn't have it figured out of what I wanted to do in high school, I thought I did on college but was wrong and I now don't even know where I will be in 10 years from now. But I have given up worrying about it and learned to just enjoy the ride because life is going to throw some curve balls but it's how you adapt to them that shows who you really are.

I know this isn't directly related to school but they are tips that will help you in both the classroom and outside of it. Let's be honest, the classroom is just preparing you for the real world. So good luck on your new school year and just remember, if you have survived 2020 thus far... you can do anything!