Robbinsdale Area Schools

From shy student to leader: Cooper’s Darien Muhen reflects on graduation

From shy student to leader: Cooper’s Darien Muhen reflects on graduation

If you’d known Darien Muhen back in grade school at Northport Elementary, you might not recognize the go-getter she has become. 

“I was extremely quiet and shy,” she said. “They pulled me out of my shell. They took the time to do that.”

Today, as a member of Cooper High School’s Class of 2024, Darien is preparing to continue her education as a nursing student. College acceptances and financial aid offers rolled in for this lively and dynamic young person, including from Hamline, Concordia, the University of Saint Thomas, St. Catherine University, Bradley University, and Howard University (an HBCU, or Historically Black College or University). In the fall she will attend St.Cloud State University. 

Darien’s trajectory of success began at Northport Elementary School, where she started in kindergarten and continued through fifth grade, and then at Robbinsdale Middle School. 

“There was so much diversity” at Northport, said Darien. “Our principal was Black, the people who directed the musicals were Black. They really instilled in us that we’re the change, and we can do whatever we put our minds to.” 

Darien, who continues to participate in African dance, said she has returned to Northport periodically to “help with the kids and stuff.” She anticipated returning to Cooper “as much as I can, because I have so many loved ones here.”

At Robbinsdale Middle School, she joined the AVID program – Advancement Via Individual Determination – in seventh grade, “when I was 12 years old.” Throughout her time in AVID she learned a variety of techniques to keep track of, and excel in, her studies. 

“It’s so much about organization!” she said, and advocates taking AVID classes if at all possible. “You can leave [high school] and feel ready for college.”

As a freshman at Cooper, Darien joined the student council. By senior year, she was the president. She also joined National Honor Society as a sophomore, served on the Student Leadership Team that works with and advises principal Shaunece Smith, and was an original member of the student Multicultural Advisory Committee. 

In 2023 Darien took her community involvement to a higher level when she and other students from across the metro testified at the state legislature in favor of maintaining School Resource Officers, or SROs. 

“That was nerve wracking,” she said. “There were so many kids there to testify, and it was intimidating to hear some of them speak so negatively [about SROs]. Many people didn’t have good experiences with police.”

“When I first came to Cooper, I didn’t know much about SROs – I didn’t even know what the letters stood for. Then I bonded with both our SROs. I’d see them in the hallway all the time. They’re just like regular people here. SROs are trained for years and years [to intervene] if an incident happens.”

Darien is proud of her work to make change happen at Cooper: to make sure it’s “a better and safer place.” 

She spoke at Cooper’s June 3 commencement ceremony. She noted the Class of 2024 started high school in the midst of the pandemic: “We persevered through a lot.” She thanked all her advisors who “supported me through everything. I will never forget them.”