Back in the days of yore, when Russell Crowe was about to ask "Gladiator" audiences if they were entertained, Amazon was little more than a bookstore, the Tennessee Titans had yet to pull off the Music City Miracle, Limp Bizkit was the No. 1 band in the country and the internet was still in its infancy—in this halcyon time, Mitchell Britton came into the world.
And what a way to make an entrance—born 2:05 a.m. New Year's Day at St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd as the second son of Roger and Christina Britton. Little Mitch happened to be the only baby born Jan. 1, 2000, in Crow Wing, Cass, Aitkin, Todd and Morrison counties.
This particular aspect of his birth turned out to be quite fortuitous, worth no less than $20,000—a nice perk for a "rough snowmobile ride" Christina took shortly before going into labor, Roger joked. Mitch, by virtue of his timely birth, was the "Millennial Baby."
The Brainerd Dispatch and its parent company at the time, Morris Communications Corp., were sponsoring a $20,000 First Baby Millennial Scholarship for college. One of the stipulations for the scholarship was the baby had to be born first among hospitals in the five local counties. Mitchell was one of 29 babies awarded with these scholarships from Morris publications across the country.
Now, Mitch is graduating high school and it's time to unearth the check, enclosed in an envelope and hidden in a safe these last 18 years—almost forgotten, really, except for the diligence of a few dedicated Dispatch employees for the better part of two decades.
In 2000, Roger said his son could set his own course when it came to post-secondary education—though, he admitted, the boy had to pursue college in some form. With $20,000 on the table—about enough for a full-ride scholarship at the time and still a huge blessing for a student—foregoing university just wasn't an option.
Stopping by the Dispatch for the long-awaited follow-up, Roger said little has changed with the family's expectation and the scholarship is a significant blessing.
"It's gonna help. $20,000 ain't much, but it's going to help," Roger said. "It will be a nice start."
From a young age, Mitch was well aware of his status as the Dispatch's "Millennial Baby."
"I remember first talking to people in kindergarten," Mitch said. "We were just talking about birthdays and stuff, sitting around in a circle, and I was talking about how I was the 'Millennial Baby.'"
In fact, Mitch's unique birthright had a way of popping up in conversation for years—not only because it was posted in the Dispatch, but also because of his parents' roles in the community. Roger was a familiar face in retail, he said, while his wife, Christina, is a licensed dermatologist.
"Anybody you'd run into around town—'Oh, you had the twins! No, you had the "Millennial baby!'' Roger said.
Mitch is now a tall, lanky senior at Brainerd High School—a member of the lacrosse team and self-described aficionado of outdoor sports involving boards: longboarding, skateboarding, snowboarding, as well as "boating stuff."
Mitch said he's planning to attend Lake Superior College in the fall, first focusing on his generals, then pursuing a degree in a field that involves biology and/or animal sciences—a vague direction that includes veterinarian or oceanic biology, though he noted he's going to wait and see, test what career path fits him best and follow his interests.
"If that's what I want to do, I feel like I can do it," Mitch said. "I'm not going to go do something my entire life that I don't want to do. I want do something I enjoy, that's worth waking up in the morning for."
Lake Superior College is an attractive destination for two reasons, Mitchell said, as his older brother Zackary is currently studying there and it presents an opportunity to "get out of Brainerd," live in a nice area, yet remain relatively close to family.
Roger said he supports the direction his son is taking, although he said he would rather Mitch attended a trade school, instead of "wasting" money on general education in a four-year degree.
"Just stick with it, get through with it. It's a tough world out there," he told his son.
"It's one of those things you feel good about," said Terry McCollough, a current editorial board member and the Dispatch's publisher at the time the scholarship was awarded. McCollough fondly remembered Roger's excitement when he first learned of his son's scholarship. "I'm really pleased that it turned out well for everybody. I felt good about it at the time and I may feel even better about it now."
McCollough—who noted he has eight grandchildren engaged in some form of post-secondary education at this time—said that even if $20,000 won't fully pay for college like it would at the turn of the millenium, it's a blessing and fulfilling to provide that support for Mitch.
Pete Mohs, current publisher of the Brainerd Dispatch, echoed this sentiment and reaffirmed the Dispatch's commitment to fostering education opportunities for people in the Brainerd lakes area.
"We're excited to help out college students like providing a scholarship for Mitch," Mohs said. "It follows our goal of supporting continuing education for area students."