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Family in tow, Anderson is set to graduate

If a person were interested in breaking down the academic career of Briana Anderson, they might do well to start with a couple of main eras. Call them Before AJ, and After AJ.

AJ — short for Anthony James — is Anderson’s son. The FHS senior got pregnant her sophomore year, and AJ was born when she was a junior. Through it all, she lost track of about two-thirds of a year of school work.

“I failed a few classes. I had an entire year to make up,” she said.

It was an imposing task, but having a baby still might have been the best thing that could have happened to Anderson’s academic prospects.

Before AJ, Anderson was an indifferent student on a good day. She figures she went to school maybe three days a week. The other days she’d hang out at the zoo with friends, or goof off some other way.

“Stuff we were definitely not supposed to be doing,” she said. “I didn’t pay attention. I didn’t think (school) was my thing.”

Getting pregnant was scary. Anderson didn’t even tell her family until she was about seven months along. But not having the baby was never an option.

Coming back to school after AJ was born wasn’t easy, either. Anderson knew people were talking about her. But for the first time in a long time she knew being in class was important. She had a son to take care of, and giving him a good future meant getting serious about school.

“It triggered my turnaround,” she said. “I want to make sure he has a good life.”

All of a sudden, Anderson was a regular in her classes. She paid attention. She turned in her homework.

But catching up with her classmates required more than just showing up every day. At the beginning, she took as many as 20 additional classes online to make up for lost time. With the help of teachers and counselors she chipped away at her backlog of lessons.

She had help from her family, and from AJ’s father, but it was still a lot of work. There were times it seemed overwhelming.

A funny thing happened along the way, though. Once she started getting serious about classes, she realized she loved learning new things.

Anderson’s goal from the start was to catch up and graduate with the rest of her class she didn’t know until early May whether she would be able to make up ground fast enough. When her counselor called her in to let her know she had made it, the feeling almost overwhelmed her.

“I had goosebumps,” she said. “I almost started to cry. I was really proud.”

There will probably be more tears when Anderson walks across the stage Friday at graduation. Anderson will be the first person in her family to go to college. She plans to attend Dakota County Technical College next year, then transfer to a four-year law enforcement program.

“My whole family’s going to be crying, and I’m going to be super happy,” Anderson said. “AJ’s going to be in the crowd.”

Nathan Hansen

Nathan Hansen has been a reporter and editor with the Farmington Independent and the Rosemount Town Pages since 1997. He is very tall.

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