Dixie Shirley was an integral part in building Kyrene de la Sierra Elementary into the school it is today.

About 22 years ago she chose the location off Pecos Road and Desert Foothills Parkway that was surrounded by desert, before the Ahwatukee Foothills population bloomed into what it is today.

As the first principal, Shirley also got to pick some of the teachers who would eventually make up the staff at the new school.

During that school year, staff and students contributed writings, pictures and newspaper articles from that year to a time capsule. In honor of the school's 20th anniversary, the capsule was opened and its contents were put on display as part of the celebration on Friday.

"Looking at everything that was in the capsule definitely gives you a sense of nostalgia," Shirley said.

She is one of the school's four principals, who were all present during the ceremony. Past students and teachers also attended, some of whom are still working for the school 20 years later.

"It's a family-oriented and caring environment," said former principal Biz Northup. "There is also a high level of expectation and the belief that everyone can learn."

This year's students will be creating a new time capsule in the coming months, and will put it underground for another 20 years.

Reading the letter she had written 20 years ago, Shirley was reminded of the tragic event that hit the school community in its first year. A young student with an inoperable brain tumor passed away.

In his remembrance, a tree was planted outside, in front of the school, where it still stands with a plaque dedicated to him.

"In my letter, I wrote that by the time this time capsule is uncovered, I hope we have a cure for cancer," Shirley said. "We aren't there yet, but we are getting closer every day."

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or troemhild@ahwatukee.com

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