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Viewpoint: Athena Awards well-deserved

This week I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Athena Awards banquet at the Prom Center in Oakdale. This is an annual event to recognize and honor young women in the St. Paul area for outstanding athletic achievements.

Forty-one young women were recognized, one from each high school in the greater St. Paul area. The two recipients from School District 833 were Briana Westlund, a senior at Park High School, and Lauren Bleyl, a senior at Woodbury High School. Jenny Ramey was also recognized representing New Life Academy. All 41 are talented athletes, but even more so, each is an outstanding person. They represent the best in terms of academics, community involvement and dedication.

I am a longtime believer that the same traits that allow you to become a first- rate athlete are the attributes that will lead to success in life. These young women earned their way onto the stage to receive these Athena Awards. They know what hard work and dedication is all about because it is practiced each and every day in their pursuit of life.

It has taken us a long time to get to this point where we recognize the athletic accomplishment of our young women. It wasn't that long ago when we did not even provide opportunities for our girls to participate. Title IX, the federal law granting equal opportunities for our female athletes, opened the door in 1972. Since that time what progress we have made!

Like many of you raised prior to that law, athletic opportunities were not present in our schools. I have spent my life in a family of strong, accomplished women. My mother was a very talented, 5-foot-7-inch tall woman who would talk about missed opportunities. My wife is a talented athlete, but graduated in 1972 just prior to the change in federal law. She has participated throughout her life, but will always wonder what could have been if young women would have had equal opportunities when she was in school.

As I watched our Athena Award winners receive their well-deserved recognition, I believe we need to thank everyone who fought the battles and demanded the doors of opportunity be opened wide for our young women. These young award winners stand on the shoulders of those who did not have today's opportunities. Today's winners have demonstrated hard work and dedication and so have those who came before them. Their hard work and dedication made today possible.

Tom Nelson is superintendent of School District 833.