You may be asking yourself: Why is Sunspots featuring this young man? He isn't originally from Stevens County. He doesn't have a long life history of the area to share. He doesn't remember the Merchants Hotel, where it stood or when it was demolished. He doesn't necessarily know where any particular business on Morris' main street used to be located "back in the day" or even what the world of technology was like before the computer.
Born in Minneapolis on Sept. 11, 1986, Matt Fragodt came to Morris from Becker, Minn., in fall 2005 to attend the University of Minnesota, Morris. Fragodt's (pronounced FROG-utt) father Tom was a carpenter and now lives in Benson. His mother, Beth Taylor, is a safety manager for TJ Potter Trucking in Becker. Brother Adam also attended UMM and sister Kristi attends the St. Cloud School of Business. The family lived for about a year in Savage, Minnesota, then Lakeville, prior to moving to Becker in 1994.
Following his graduation from UMM in 2010 as an elementary education major, Fragodt chose to remain in Morris and has since become an active and contributing resident of this area.
"Growing up, I always liked to play sports," said Fragodt, whose first love is baseball. "I used to throw a ball against the house and Mom had daycare so there were a lot of kids around. Dad was always outside helping me. Mom was a big supporter and went to every sporting event. My parents motivated me in a variety of ways. Sports helped me make a lot of friends."
He participated in every possible high school sport. The Becker high school football team went to state tournament all of Fragodt's four years there. One of his favorite memories was attending the Prep Bowl as a senior quarterback. "It was a big thing in Becker to make the state championship," said Fragodt.
Fragodt and a group of friends annually attend the College (baseball) World Series in Omaha, a tradition that started when they were in high school. "A good friend's dad bought us general admission tickets back then and we've gone every year since."
An admitted "very competitive" person, Fragodt's early love of sports not only helped him choose UMM and become a Cougar football student athlete but also shape his employment and some of his career choices. While in high school, he worked at summer camps and the local golf course.
"I've coached baseball, basketball and football for three years in the Chokio-Alberta High School," he said. After answering a newspaper ad, "I worked one summer at the Developmental Achievement Center in Benson as the lawn crew supervisor," a job that Fragodt said was an "eye opener. I haven't been around vulnerable adults that much, so I learned as much from those I supervised as they did from me."
Fragodt taught for a half year in Benson as a Title I teacher and this past year, in addition to coaching ninth grade basketball and seventh and eighth grade baseball in Morris, he taught a computer class to grades K-4 at Northside Elementary in Benson.
"It was a challenge to teach a computer class to kindergartners who don't know their ABCs," he said with a smile. Fragodt, who has a five-year-old niece, gets along with young children and will teach in Benson again next school year.
"You learn a lot of things when you teach kids," said Fragodt, who fell in love with teaching when he student taught at Willmar, Benson, Sisseton and Morris while a UMM student. And there are a lot of surprises too. "You never know when they'll need a potty break, and be prepared when you ask even a simple question like 'OK?' or 'all right?' because they might answer emphatically, 'NO!' You have to be on your toes all the time."
In addition to teaching in Benson, Fragodt is an assistant football coach for his alma mater, the UMM Cougars.
"I didn't think I would ever coach football," said Fragodt, who thought instead about coaching basketball. "At the college level, student athletes can already play football, but a coach can help them improve the skills they already have through repetition, practice and watching films of each practice and every game."
Fragodt shares his competitive spirit not only with the athletes he coaches but also in the goals he has set for himself in life. "I hate to lose," he admitted. "I want to be the best friend, the best family member and succeed in my life's work," lofty aspirations that include a personal teaching moment. "When you don't succeed, you learn," said Fragodt. "When you make mistakes you learn from it."
Fragodt enjoys traveling, has been to Florida and twice to Texas, as well as to California, Las Vegas and Arizona. While in Italy as a UMM sophomore with the Cougar football team, Fragodt loved the country's history--old sculptures and buildings. He found the driving "crazy" and the food "amazing. You haven't eaten a tomato until you've had one there," he said. Fragodt would like to have observed gladiators in the Coliseum in ancient Rome: "That would have been magnificent."
He still drives his first car, received on the occasion of his 16th birthday--a Grand Prix GT. He loves to gather and fish at the family cabin on Big Birch Lake and enjoys cooking. "My specialty is Mexican lasagna." He also loves music.
"When I was young and Meatloaf or a country western song played, I absolutely hated it. I liked pop and hip-hop then. Now I listen to everything. Music brings everyone together," said Fragodt, who enjoys breaking into song or leading friends to sing along with an occasional jukebox or live band tune.
When George Bernard Shaw said, "Youth is wasted on the young," there's no doubt he'd ever met Matt Fragodt. Energetic and engaged in life, Fragodt believes that younger adults can help to introduce others to some of life's changes so that they can continue to function at whatever pace suits them. He enjoys making friends with adults beyond his years. "I respect others; we can be friends and socialize and be happy."
Fragodt reminds us of the many folks of all ages, cultures and interests who live around here as our family members, our neighbors, our friends, our coworkers, teachers, care givers and mentors. Those who work alongside us in town or (literally) in fields of their own. Those who visit and decide to stay at least for a little while and those who have quietly--even in the smallest way--touched the lives of the rest of us. Sunspots features people we've perhaps seen around and would like to know better. Or those we know well, but who can still surprise us. Sunspots is about people like me and you.