First class graduates from Northpoint Elementary

June 7 was twice as special of a day for Northpoint student Sam Sheedlo.

Para Joe Quanstrom (Mr. Q) gives kids a high-five after the graduation assembly. Students are Daniel Tran (left to right), Christian Valenzuela and Elysiah Han. Photo by Elyse Kaner

Para Joe Quanstrom (Mr. Q) gives kids a high-five after the graduation assembly. Students are Daniel Tran (left to right), Christian Valenzuela and Elysiah Han. Photo by Elyse Kaner

Not only was it the last day of school for Sam before summer vacation, it was also the day he and 182 of his third-grade classmates earned the distinct honor of being named the first class to graduate from the K-3 school – a school in Blaine which was a mere field and a dream about five years ago.

Sam was four years old when he was part of a golden shovel team. The team in 2008 dug into the ground and unearthed the first shovelfuls of dirt that would become the 86,000 square-foot Northpoint. A school firmly planted in the community and reaping fond memories for the students, particularly the third-graders, now older and wiser, carving their way to a higher education.

Northpoint Facts
• 2350 124th Court, Blaine
• K-3 elementary school
• 700 student capacity
• Construction started in 2007
• Officially opened September 2008
• $12 million, two-story brick building
• Came in on budget
• Financed as part of a $95.9 million bond
referendum passed by voters February 2006
• Students drew from the former Kenneth Hall,
Woodcrest and Park Terrace elementary schools
• Built by Kraus-Anderson Construction Company
• Designed by Wold Architects and Engineers

“It took a long time to build, but it was worth the wait,” said Sam, now nine years old.

The graduation

The last afternoon of the school year, Northpoint’s third-graders marched into the school gymnasium to a packed audience of about 350 family members and friends.

“This reinforces the fact that we have a great school, a supportive school, a school that does great things for kids,” said Principal Mike Callahan about the number of well wishers who showed up for the celebration.

Callahan, who has led the school since day one, shared a few memories with the children. About that first day of school four years ago when they walked into the new Northpoint saying “Holy cow!,” he said. And “where’s my classroom?”

Callahan offered three words of advice to the students.

“Do your best” he said. Words they should keep in mind when they head off to fourth grade at Westwood Intermediate School. Words that will help them in high school and maybe college, and at a job someday, he said.

A group of teachers assembled a typical Northpoint student for the audience. They added a smile, a big heart and a book tucked inside the arms of a life-size stuffed figure dressed in jeans, T-shirt and sneakers. The book was included because Northpoint students are good readers, they said.

A video tape captured some of the students’ favorite memories of their time spent in the building. Their teachers. I Love to Read Month. A place where they learned to read and write. The field trips (to Minnesota Zoo, Como Zoo and Underwater Adventures at the Mall of America).

“We love Northpoint,” the kids cheered at the end of the video.

Then, the students rose and for the last time sang the all-school song together. The graduation was followed by an ice cream social held behind the school.

“I was encouraged but not surprised,” Callahan said about the large audience turnout in an interview following the event. “But it’s what I’ve been a part of for the last four years, the parent involvement and the support….”

Molly Sheedlo, the first PTO president of Northpoint and Sam’s mom, echoed Callahan’s thoughts.

“The parent support is incredible, and it always has been from the start,” she said at the ice cream social.

A lot going on 

Since day one, the students have had visits from the Minnesota Twins mascot TC Bear, a bicycle stunt rider, Ronald McDonald talking about bullying, field trips, theater opportunities and much more. That’s not to mention all of the other learning going on.

The school celebrates fall with a festival. During movie night in January both the gymnasium and cafeteria are packed with moms, dads and kids well stocked with sleeping bags and pillows. This spring the school presented its second multicultural arts fair, representing more than 17 countries.

“It’s great to see these five- to six-year-olds arrive at the building and depart feeling successful,” Callahan said about the third-grade graduating class. “From start to finish, it’s pretty special.”

As for Sam, the best part of Northpoint were the people, the students, he said. His best memory in his four years at the school are the track and field days.

But Sam now looks to the future, to starting anew at Westwood.

“It feels good,” he said. “Next year’s going to be fun.”


Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]

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