Forty were expected, but more than 80 showed up at the first alumni mixer held on Jan. 28 at St. Joseph Catholic School in Placentia.
It was akin to a family reunion.
Many of the alumni in attendance are current parishioners of St. Joseph Catholic Church and/or parents of current and former students.
For Martha Schaner Walswick, class of 1972, her 9 children, 10 grandchildren and all her siblings attended the school.
It’s that kind of school: small, close-knit and family-oriented. Everybody knows everybody.
IN THE ST. JOSEPH CATHOLIC SCHOOL COURTYARD, GENE SHUTT CHATS WITH LISA LITTLE, CLASS OF 1985; JEANNE YARNOVITCH, CLASS OF 1985 AND DIANA CROSSES SCHUTT, CLASS OF 1988.
The mixer was the school’s opportunity to build an alumni network and show them how it has grown and changed. Fifth-grade teacher and assistant principal Laurie Cantrell explained, “This is a nice way to celebrate our alumni and we’ve made so many upgrades and changes that we’re excited to show them our campus.”
The changes include a new field, a new Virgin Mary statue in the courtyard and a new STEM education program using a state-of-the-art SmartLab, the first in North Orange County. Landscaping was upgraded with new olive trees.
Principal Amanda Hawley described the event as a way to enable St. Joseph families and alumni to support each other as a community.
“I would also like alumni to remain connected so they hopefully would bring their own kids to school here as well,” she said.
SARAH TASS, CLASS OF 2011, AND CHRISTINA CASTRO, CLASS OF 2012, POSE WITH THEIR YEARBOOKS FOR A PHOTO IN FRONT OF ST. JOSEPH CATHOLIC SCHOOL’S NEW VIRGIN MARY STATUE.
Many do already.
It was a mild night for the outdoor event. Grads, parents and faculty mingled in the school’s attractive, decorated courtyard and toured the campus. Light hors d’oeuvres, drinks and desserts refreshed the guests.
Diane McKechnie and Jackie Bailey, class of 1985, explained their affection for their years at St. Joseph.
“I think it had to do with just knowing everybody,” said McKechnie.
“There were only 60 kids, and we just grew up together from first to eighth grade – and everyone was so nice to each other.”
Bailey added, “I think it had a lot to do with core values. The students came from great families.”
Principal Hawley opined that nostalgia is what brings alumni back to the school.
Omar Corres, class of 1991, recalled that his happiest memory was when he was that he also enjoys memories of playing football and just being at the school.
“It was a small community and now my kids come here, he said. “I came to reunite with some classmates.”
The family feeling of the school was shared by recent grads Joseph Nguyen and Isabella Hernandez, class of 2019.
“I liked it that everyone knew everybody and everyone was friends,” said Hernandez.
Nguyen said he liked the small classes and the way the students all bonded with each other.
“It was just a fun time hanging out together,” he said. “I wanted to see some old classmates, but I especially want to see some old teachers to catch up with them.”
Hawley was pleased with the alumni mixer’s success.
“I am thrilled by the turnout,” she said. “So many positive comments and so many old stories shared.”
She added that the biggest surprise was that one of their old teachers, Mrs. McCarthy, came to the event.
“So many alumni were happy to see her, and I heard so many beautiful stories about how she influenced their lives.”