I count my blessings often. I was raised by hardworking, middle class parents. Children of immigrants, people of the Depression who, because of chance and circumstance, were denied the opportunity for even a high school education, but demanded I receive one, and inspired me to attend college. My story was no different than my friends in our neighborhood. Or, I will guess than yours. Hardworking people all, in hard times, who shared the desire and knowledge that an education was important, vital, for a good life. That, they said, is why we work so hard. It is why their parents came over. For a chance at a better life. They supported the schools in the best way they could. With hard earned dollars. We did not all go to college. We went in many directions. But we did attend our neighborhood schools ... they were “our place.” A place we learned the skills we needed to chase our dreams. And, when we left we had the experiences that only school can give. We had the people of the school, teachers, administrators, cooks, janitors, in our pocket. We were off to make a life.
Now, in the autumn of that life, and in increasing moments of reflection, I appreciate so much more those who came before me, my friends, my family. For decades, someone has been there for us. This summer I was reminded, again, of the timeless impact of school and school life. I was humbled and honored to be a guest at the 65th reunion of the Brainerd Warrior class of 1946. With pride, they called themselves “The magnificent class of ‘46.” And magnificent they were! Over a hundred graduates and guests attended. It was magical! Grads, many of whom live here still, laughing, embracing, shaking hands, catching up ... reminiscing as only reunions inspire us to do. They were, if only briefly, back to their time, their place. The place they left to go make their mark in life. The place that was made possible by the sacrifice of others.
In remarks to the group, one of the hosts asked them to recall a special teacher or class or event that they particularly remembered. There was no shortage of fond memories. In my brief remarks, I assured them that the spirit that is the Warriors lives in all of us still; that the pride they have in their school is alive and vibrant. That “We are the Warriors” remains the bond we all share; that kids still chase their dreams.
For nearly four decades, we have lived and worked in this community. It has been a marvelous time. We know that, in the end, it is the journey, not the inn, that defines us. Our community is filled with hardworking, giving, caring people. People who, like legions before them, know the value of good schools, good education. We are asked, now, to support a referendum that will enable us to help today’s students chase their dreams. To make their mark. At the beginning of each football season, I ask our team two questions. “What will you settle for?” “How will you be remembered?” If we settle for giving our best to each other, to our school, to our family, to our community, that will be enough. How we will be remembered will take care of itself.
When we play, we represent you. We represent a proud tradition, a spirit that lives in us. A spirit of yesterday and today, one we will share tomorrow. And, we hold hands.
Someone helped you once. It is time to hold hands with one another. Please join me in saying yes, yes.
RON STOLSKI is the Brainerd High School football coach and is the former athletic director.