At this time of year, I am overwhelmed with mixed feelings. I am filled with pride in the accomplishments of our students and staff, and sadness at having to say good-bye to our graduating seniors and retiring staff members. While I can’t possibly mention all of the activities taking place to mark the end of the school year, I will highlight a few favorites.
Kinder-Friend Day: Since 1986, the district’s kindergarten teachers have planned an event during which all kindergarteners come together to celebrate. Emanating from the dream of a former Garfield teacher, this event begins with a mock graduation serenaded by the Brainerd High School band’s rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance.” The day is filled with track and field events, activities, and music.
“Kinder-Friend Day becomes the last memory of the beginning of their journey through school,” explained Riverside Elementary Principal Cathy Engler.
BHS Commencement: On June 2, at 7 p.m., we celebrate the 491 BHS seniors during the school’s 124th Annual Commencement Exercises of the Brainerd Public Schools on Don Adamson Field.
“There has been a concerted effort by our students and faculty to make this a dignified, honorable event,” says BHS Principal Andrea Rusk. “This is a ceremony for the students’ accomplishments but also an opportunity to honor their parents, grandparents, and supportive community members.”
Grad Blast! Following the ceremony, graduating students check in for the annual “Grad Blast” all-night party at BHS. I am amazed by the time, talent, and donations contributed by our parents, community volunteers, and local business owners that make this night a terrific memory. Jean Maske, who pours countless hours into this event year over year, is the tireless Grad Blast coordinator. Students will sing karaoke, play volleyball, swim, “wrestle” in sumo suits, “climb” a Velcro wall, and much more. The highlight (at 3 a.m.!) is a hypnotist — always a crowd favorite.
Lincoln Education Center Graduation: On June 1 at 1 p.m., the Lincoln Education Center will host its graduation ceremony. The LEC is a separate site educational program that works with students who have significant emotional and behavioral disabilities that interfere with their ability to be successful full time in a regular school setting.
“Our students, along with the support of their parents, community agencies, and local businesses, have worked very hard to overcome challenges and achieve this milestone,” LEC Principal Nancy Anderson said. “They can now take the next steps in their lives with the confidence that they can be successful.”
Area Education Center Graduation: On June 3 at 1 p.m., the district’s Area Education Center hosts its graduation ceremony. The AEC provides an alternate learning environment for students who have not experienced success in the traditional school program.
“With a great deal of relationship-building, academic support, and an adequate supply of hope, these students will be crossing the finish line,” AEC Principal Marlee Larson said. “It is a major deal that they are walking into the world with a diploma and a new beginning.”
Retirees: Never is the emotional element of education more evident than when we gather to honor retiring staff members. As they move on to explore new horizons and pursue interests, we celebrate the 15 retirees who account for a total of 366 years of district experience. 366 years! It is with admiration, respect, awe, and a touch of sadness that I wish them a fond farewell.
From Kinder-Friend Day to graduation ceremonies, we celebrate the “bookends” of academic experience in Brainerd schools. At each event, I look forward to reflecting on our year and celebrating student and staff successes.
STEVE RAZIDLO is superintendent of the Brainerd School District.