The freshman at Coon Rapids High School aren't the only new faces in the building this fall. Cardinal Nation has a new leader: Principal John Peña.
"The beginning of the school year has been great, the staff here have been awesome."
Peña along with the freshman got a taste of the new school year earlier this week.
"We had freshman orientation on Monday and we had a group of staff that put on a great orientation for the kids. We had them all here pretty much and that was the first time that I've seen the school filled with kiddos and they just had a blast."
Peña, who grew up in New York and moved to Minneapolis as a child, is no stranger to the Anoka-Hennepin School District. It's where he started his journey in school administration following years of teaching. He's spent the last decade as an assistant principal at Anoka Middle School for the Arts.
"My philosophy is every kid should be loved, cared for, supported and prepared for whatever they want to do in life and the more connected they are to our system, I think the more likely they are gonna be to succeed."
The married father of two knows he's the captain of the team but the school ship is not his alone.
"People say your building, this that and the other, it's not my building, I'm a steward of the building, that's it. The building belongs to the community, to the families, to the students."
Much of the renovation work at Coon Rapids High School is now complete including a new activities entrance and new school store. Pena hopes school spirit will be strong this year and that families will join him and his team on the educational journey.
"We want our families engaged and involved and so I challenge all our families to come on up, visit your space, if something is going on at home with your kiddos, give us a call, let us know, we don't know what we don't know and we need you to help us support your kids."
The first day of school is Tuesday, September 7.