Monday, August 17, 2009

If These Hallowed Walls Could Talk...10 Year High School Reunion Recap

If these old halls,
If hallowed halls could talk,
These would have a tale to tell
Of sun goin’ down and dinner bell,
And children playing at hide and seek
from floor to rafter,
If these halls could speak.

Thanks to the gentle prodding of these lovely ladies
I found myself walking up the steps of this imposing structure on Friday afternoon.
My high school. Holy Names Academy.
As my lovely alma mater states on their site: Holy Names Academy, the oldest continually operating school in Washington State, is a private, Catholic, college preparatory school for girls in grades 9-12. Established in 1880 by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, Holy Names Academy has graduated over 8,900 students. This is where Chris usually likes to point out that his graduating high school class had about the same number of students that my entire school had. The class of 1999 had about 110 girls at graduation.

I was a fairly shy, introverted 14 year old when I arrived at HNA after a rough two years in junior high. I was more interested in books than boys, which was good since there was nary a male teenager to be found in this school. I appreciated HNA's strong dedication to science and math and quickly joined the Earth Science Corps., the pinnacle of nerdiness. I signed on to the rowing team and enjoyed four years as an oarsman (oarswoman?), despite the fact that I never was a standout athlete. Best of all, I found a group of like-minded individuals who were smart, funny, and interested in a wide range of activities.Personally, I enjoyed high school. I liked [most] of my teachers, I appreciated the all-girls environment [no matter how much we complained about it], and I felt that I was strongly prepared for college after four challenging years at HNA. Of course, there were downsides: HNA was founded by Catholic Nuns, and religion classes (every day, for four years) were required. What a complete and utter waste of time. Seriously. HNA: ditch the old, outdated theology courses. Keep the 9th grade curriculum (World Religions) and toss everything else overboard. Or make them optional, to be taken by all the girls whose Catholic parents that want their daughters to have the proper faith-based education. To think of all that time wasted, listening to Sister Rosemary expound upon the intricacies of the Old Testament. Oh! Imagine those art, biology or music classes that I could have taken instead! Writing about it, I find that I'm actually still rather regretful of that wasted time and lost opportunities. Can't you tell?

I think this was my locker. Or was it the one next door? How can I not remember this?

This is for all the lovely ladies out there that didn't attend the reunion. This portrait is immediately recognizable:
Generally, I'm pleased that I attended our reunion. There were a number of folks with whom it was nice to reconnect. My classmates have done amazing things: joined the Peace Corps, moved to Hawaii, started their own businesses. I am in awe of their accomplishments.

I also enjoyed strolling through the halls and remembering times that seemed so very long ago. There are locks on the doors, security cameras in the hallways, and the classrooms are filled with fancy looking technological devices, but the essence of the school hasn't changed one bit. It's old, and rather dusty, but it was a great place for learning. And, I'm sure there is a teacher, somewhere, that is keeping her ruler handy to make sure that every girl's skirt fall no more than three inches above her knees.

I trust that girls attending the school today enjoy the same level of excellent teaching that I had as a student. Almost all of my favorite teachers have left or retired, which, I suppose, is not unexpected ten years later. For the student's sake, I hope that the rumblings I've heard of teacher unhappiness with the current administration haven't too greatly affected the level of education. HNA's strength was in its teaching body and I was well served by exceptional and inspirational educators.


  1. Wonderful recap, Sonja! And great pictures - it was nice seeing you!

  2. Interesting view points on attending Catholic high school. Unfortunately (or fortunately, I guess we'll never know) I attended public high school. I must say...I would have enjoyed the religious classes for several reasons. 1) I think I'd know more about my religion and 2) I hated attending CCE class on week nights!!! Ugh! Usually they were unruly classes where you learned very little religious information. That was a waste of time.

    I always liked the family atmosphere of my Catholic school. I did find that when I joined band in public school, but found that lacking in my general classes. I'm always torn...I think public schools have more to offer extracurricularly speaking, but Catholic schools seem to be more academically and family motivated.

    I would love to send Gabriel to Catholic school through 4th grade, and then give him a chance to choose if he'd like to switch each year. I guess we'll see what tuition is, huh? :)

    Glad you had fun though! I'll probably skip mine since most of my immediate friends won't be able to make it.

  3. Marcilla12:20 PM

    See, we told you it would be fun! And Chris was good sport for joining the revelry as well.
    I too found a sense of "the more things change, the more they stay the same" walking through the school.
    It's amazing and lovely that even ten years later, the friendships we formed in those dusty halls still hold us together. See you tonight!

  4. Thanks, Hana, it was lovely to see you as well. Thanks so much for the hard work you put into the planning process; it was a great success!

  5. Amanda,

    Thanks for the comments, I knew I could count on your perspective. In your honor, last night I took a poll of some HNA gal pals during our monthly dinner out. Some were catholic, some weren't. Some were also non-practicing. Generally, people didn't care much for the classes, but that (and this is where it gets interesting) was mostly due to the way the content was presented, [lack of] subject matter depth, and rote memorization that was required in many of the classes. Given the opportunity, most of the girls would have taken one or two of the required classes (but typically not all four), provided that they worked on the presentation. Also, making them optional would have been nice, a few girls said. As far as I could tell, I was the only one that would have ditched them completely. :) One friend also theorized out that to be a catholic-accredited school, religion classes are pretty much required all four years. Which makes sense but still stinks, in my humble opinion. :) Also, and this was notable: A few girls (including a couple former, non-practicing catholics) said that the religion classes were pretty much responsible for them deciding that it wasn't the 'right' religion for them and left the church soon after. Probably not what the higher ups want us young impressionable girls taking away from the classes. I can quite clearly state that the courses, and two instructors in particular (one in HS, one in JH), were solely responsible for squashing any interest I had in the religion.

    So there you have it! The skinny from the catholic school girls! I'm really glad that I went to HNA (It was the best choice for me) but of course, like most folks, I do have some regrets.

    How does Brian feel about Service? I know Chris really enjoyed it and I think he feels that public school is the way to go if the local school is of good quality. Of course, we don't have the religious considerations though...

  6. Interesting. I definitely can see how presentation means a lot...being a "former" teacher and all. :) Especially if you are not of that religion. Many of my Catholic friends have left the church as well. When I talk to them most of them grew tired of the traditional service...looking for something more personal and higher energy, and also fewer rules. I can definitely see how the Catholic Church can seem daunting, old fashioned, and cold...but, I do gradually see a change coming about in some parishes. I hope it continues...I take great inspiration from the movie Sister Act. Seriously...I think if more parishes changed up the music a bit that it would draw a lot more people back to the church. Also...a stronger knowledge of the Bible. Sadly Catholics usually lack in that area b/c we're so busy learning the Catechism.

    Brian really liked Service. He had some wonderful teachers that really inspired him. But, he doesn't have a private school experience to compare it to. Brian doesn't believe in organized religion thus making him skeptical of religious private schools. He feels we pay taxes for our schools so our kids should go there.

    Having taught in our school district I have some advantages to knowing what goes on. I think our schools are of good quality, but I think having religion being a part of your every day life rather than just on Sunday's sets a deeper foundation for your faith. By going to a Catholic School Gabriel will get that. However, I do want him to have the advantages of extracurricular activities and elective classes that are more prevalent in public schools as you get older. This is why I would like to give him the option to move to public school after 4th grade. I can tell you that given the choice I would have stayed in my private school until at least high school. My parents already had my all girls high school picked out in PA, but we moved when I was in 5th grade and I then entered the public school system.

    So, I think I have convinced Brian that if we can afford tuition Gabriel and child #2 should start at Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic School with the option to move later in their school career. But, that's assuming we can afford it. If not...luckily I can handle helping him through the elementary years and most subjects (excluding math and science) beyond that. Also, attending outside CCE classes at St. Michael's, going to church and practicing his faith with me, and having some kick butt Godparents I think Gabriel will have a great education no matter what avenue he ends up on. :)

  7. Oh...and I wanted to add to my already LONG note. (Sorry about that.) I still keep in touch with some of my St. Ignatius friends. I missed them terribly after being with them for 5 years in a row...same kids...every class. It truly was like a second family, and my mom worked in the library. Yep, I was spoiled! lol I hope my kids find that no matter where they go! :)

  8. Amanda,
    I am impressed by your planning! I suppose every good teacher out there puts a lot of thought into where their children will attend school.

    Also, if you want your child to attend a private school, I commend you for starting him out there first and giving him the option to move, later on. When I switched to Assumption/St. Bridget in 7th grade, my classmates (only 60 0f them) had been attending school together since kindergarten. Take about a tight knit family who had no interest in welcoming new members. I was also probably the single most awkward teenager in this entire universe (think long, dark bangs and face-enveloping glasses). Let's just say it wasn't a happy marriage. So yeah, start 'em out young and then give 'em the chance to move onto a bigger school with more options (and more people).