Editor’s note:  Coronavirus fears in March halted the girls’ basketball state tournament, leaving it half-completed and champion-less. For the next dozen weeks, high school seniors endured an unwelcome final chapter of childhood. Paige Bueckers, a graduating senior at Hopkins and America’s best girls’ basketball player, keeps her focus on the future. As the Star Tribune salutes the Class of 2020 today, we share Paige’s story and her motivation.

Cut short, by one day. We were going to win our second straight basketball championship, finish back-to-back undefeated seasons. Then something out of a bad movie, a worldwide pandemic, shut everything down.

This whole thing hasn’t seemed real, and I’ve been struggling to understand it. Things we never thought we’d miss were taken away. No school? Shoot, we have school with a 20-below windchill. I never thought I would miss being at school this much.

This pandemic has made me realize I should never take the little things for granted. Going to the grocery store, going to my ceramics class, playing with friends at the park and going to the movies are everyday activities I thought I would have forever.

Special moments were taken, too. Graduation and prom, playing for a championship with my Hopkins teammates, postseason all-star games and many more memories. It’s painful.

But it is so important to think of others, especially right now. In fact, I am blessed. I have a great family, a roof over my head, food in my fridge and health among my friends and family. So many lives are being lost to a virus and it would be wrong of me to think I’m suffering because I didn’t get to go to a basketball game or a dance.

Just as I and the other seniors — all of us, really — were trying to understand and balance all that, we were hit with more emotions. We are sad and angry all over again after the death of George Floyd. More pain for our city and state, and more difficult questions. When will things actually change for the better? When will people of color stop being judged by their skin? I am white. I will never be able to understand what it’s like to be a person of color, but that does not make me any less angry.

It hurts just thinking about how far we have to go, but we have to start somewhere. There is a need for action instead of words. We must change.

I have used this time to renew the relationships in my life, with God, my family and my friends. Everybody should want to come out of this quarantine and this moment of change in Minnesota with new goals for how we treat each other and more appreciation for what we have.

In class, we learn about the biggest events of the past. But it’s not really the events themselves that we study most, it’s the effects those events had. Are we going to let this virus and the violence in our city bring us down and divide us? Or are we going to fight back and work hard to improve and come together?

I am a huge believer that everything happens for a reason. Something good just has to come out of all this. We can use this moment to be smarter about how we carry ourselves. We can come out of this stronger as a country.

Yes, these days often seem like something out of a movie, but we are our own directors. We write the script. We control how this whole thing ends.

I have always loved an underdog story with a happy ending, so that’s how I plan to write my script. How are you going to write yours?

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Paige Bueckers will be a freshman at the University of Connecticut this fall. Click here to see the Star Tribune’s salute to the Class of 2020