MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- Thousands of students are excited to be back in the classroom at the Merced Union High School District.
Students said this was the most normal they've felt starting off the school year in a long time.
But for the new El Capitan principal, Megan Cope, Wednesday was anything but normal. In fact, it was a dream come true.
It was eight years ago when Cope learned she had a rare liver disease.
"Turns out I had Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis and the doctors decided they needed to remove half my liver," she said.
In 2021, Megan went into liver failure and needed a transplant.
She was serving as the assistant principal at Golden Valley High School at the time - and knew her work wasn't done.
"I was adamant - we're getting a liver transplant this summer. I told them I wanted to be principal. I wanted to make this happen," she said.
Last July, she got the news she'd been waiting for.
"San Francisco called and said we have a liver for you. As soon as I got that new liver, my body started to accept it and move forward and get better everyday," she said.
And that wasn't the only good news in store for Cope. Less than one year later, she was offered the position as El Capitan's new principal.
"I think my initial reaction was pure joy and excitement. I'm going to be honest, I cried a little bit," she said.
Now she and the rest of the MUHSD staff are focused on helping students make the most of this school year after missed opportunities during the pandemic.
It's a school year that for many is already off to the most normal start they've seen in a long time.
"There's some kids I forgot what they look like. It's really weird, my most normal school year is the first half of freshman year and since then it's been weird, it's all been COVID," said student Emily Rowan.
As for principal Cope, she says she was feeling all the adrenaline of the first day and is ready to help her students every step of the way.