Growing up in a small town, you know everyone's business. You know just about everyone's names and where they live and everyone seems to be related in some way. When you’re out on a Target run, there is always a high chance you will run into at least one person you know. That’s what it’s like growing up in a small town.

Just like most of you, I have grown up in the same town my whole 20 years of life, in South Saint Paul, Minnesota. As much as I frequently say I hate living here, it does feel like home and it always will be. I don’t think I would have that same feeling with my hometown if I were to grow up anywhere else, especially in a larger city. I like how close and connected our community is through the good times and hard times.

South Saint Paul recently just lost one of our favorite teachers/coach/father/colleague/the voice of SSP, and many other amazing things he was, Mr. Craig Felton. Whether you have had him in class or you just saw him in passing time, he was one of the most admirable people you could have ever met. I don’t know a single person who did not love that man and I personally can think of many memories with him, as I’m sure all of you have as well. Our community was heartbroken and will never be the same, though through this hard time, our community comes together as one. Going through social media the last few days, all that would appear on my screen were posts that said, #WhenIThinkOfMrFelton and then whatever memory they had with him or what they thought about him. It was heartwarming to read all the posts to see how this one person made such a difference on all of these peoples lives in so many different ways over so many years. We all got to cherish these times we had with Mr. Felton and it will never be forgotten. A memorial service was had for him at South Saint Paul High School. It had felt like everyone in South Saint Paul was there, the Competition Gym was filled completely. Although this was hard for everyone through this tough time, it showed how our community can come together through these hard times to support one another. It gives you a sense of pride growing up somewhere like this.

Just as Mr. Felton once told me once, “You always come back to this small town, even if you try to leave, you always find your way back. It’s hard to find somewhere else that’s this close.” At the time when he said this to my physics class, I was in my senior year of high school, and I didn’t believe a word he said. I thought to myself, 'I’m going to get out of here as soon as I can, I can’t wait to leave South Saint Paul.' Now that I’m getting older, I’m starting to appreciate the little things, and not wishing it all away because I want to cherish the times I have in this small town, just as Mr. Felton did.

My thoughts and prayers go out to the Felton family through this hard time, I know you guys will find the light through this darkness. Mr. Felton will be in everyone's hearts and may he live on forever.