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A year to remember with more to come

Riverside Elementary School kindergartner Jake Stockinger rolled the ball Wednes1 / 3
About 522 kindergartners from Brainerd public and private schools excitedly shou2 / 3
Seanna Warta of Lowell School ran through streamers Wednesday during an obstacle3 / 3

My baby boy Jake graduated Wednesday — from kindergarten, that is.

He has 12 more years to go before he graduates from high school in 2023. That means 12 more years of taking care of him, feeding him his favorite food of chicken nuggets, playing trucks and cars with him, hearing about his day at school and about what he found intriguing on that particular day. 

He always has a story to tell about his day, whether it’s about a school project, such as when he made a caterpillar out of stuffing and an old nylon sock, or a joke he heard from a classmate to the usual tattletale on who did what in class. And he never forgot to tell me when he got to go to Principal “Mrs. (Cathy) Engler’s treat jar” at his school at Riverside Elementary School for doing a good deed.

Jake joined about 522 kindergartners Wednesday on Don Adamson Field at Brainerd High School to celebrate Kinderfriend Day, an annual graduation celebration in the Brainerd School District that pulls together all the kindergartners from all the public elementary schools of Baxter, Lowell, Harrison, Riverside,  Garfield and Nisswa and the private schools of St. Francis of the Lakes Catholic School and Montessori School of Brainerd. 

The kindergartners — in their colored T-shirts looking like a rainbow — walked down the high school track listening to the graduation march. Each student was eagerly looking for their parents and family up in the bleachers as if they had not seen them in ages. Once they found them, the smiles on their faces was more than words could write. Their faces lit up so vibrantly as they waved madly.

It’s a majestic moment on Kinderfriend Day, the daythat  is the first time these students are on the field together and the next and last time will be when they graduate from Brainerd High School.

Fast forward to 2023. What will these students be doing with their lives? What is there dream job? What will Jake do with his life? Right now, my son does not want echo the popular child response of a police officer or firefighter. No, no. He wants to be a semi driver because he loves trucks, especially semis. When you ask him what he’ll carry on his semi load his response is, “I will carry basketballs for Fun ‘N’ Friends.” Fun ‘N’ Friends is a Brainerd Community Education before- and after-school program for kindergartners through eighth grade. 

Will being on the road be Jake’s calling? Not sure. Maybe he’ll be the president of the United States or a pilot since he also loves airplanes.

What will his classmates do? They should all do well as they were taught by the most wonderful and caring kindergarten teacher, Theresa Thomas. 

Jake’s classmate, Cayden Sumption, said he also wants to drive a semi when he grows up. However, he said he’d drive it to South Dakota. Sophia Trtanj wants to be a bus driver.

Four classmates — Brooke Higgins, Daniel Jillson, Josh Norman and Logan Reed — all want to be police officers. Daniel said then he could arrest people for stealing money; Josh said he’d arrest the bad guys; and Logan said he’d arrest people for going too fast.

Another common job was a veterinarian. Alyssa Avant wanted to be a veterinarian for snakes and dogs; Isabelle Johnson wanted to care for dogs and cats; Nate Popham wanted to care for big animals so they could have babies; and Ellie Mills wanted to be a veterinarian for small animals. Ashtyn Kubista wants to ride horses.

Kindergartner Kaira Reese wants to be a famous singer who’d sing for the president; Mason Kuepers wants to build big buildings, like his father; Riley Bender wants to be a science teacher; Paige Beyer wants to be a doctor to help children; and Jenna Jensen wants to be an artist.

 Classmates Lily Haglin and Nicole Heitkotter want to be cheerleaders; Owen Gunter wants to be a baseball catcher for the Minnesota Twins; Jesse Rodman wants to be a football player and then he’ll enlist in the Army; and Abram Overland wants to be a professional wrestler.

Nadia Shablow wants to be lipstick girl. “I’ll put lipstick on people’s lips,” she said.

My best goes out to all 522 kindergartners on pursuing their dreams. But for now I hope all of the students will enjoy their next 12 years at school because it goes by fast.

I know I plan to cherish every minute I have with my children — even the constant bickering, did I say that? — before they graduate from high school. As for now, the biggest decisions Jake will have to make are what truck or semi to play with and which friends he’ll stick with through the years ... and to figure out where he’ll hide the pieces of steak from mom so he doesn’t have to eat them. I haven’t found them yet. Maybe I will after his next graduation.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851.