When graduates of Westwood High School’s class of 1968 gathered to celebrate their 50th reunion in October, they had a special treat that previous reunited classes didn’t: a meeting with the current WHS student body. The reunion organizers had asked co-advisors of the Student Council, Sally Patton and Heather Joyce, if they could arrange some tours of the middle school and high school. The advisors fulfilled that request and more.
“We were asked to pull something together for the class of ’68,” Patton said. “We asked the students what we should do, and they came up with the idea.”
That idea was actually two ideas: the first being a large welcome banner for the student body to sign. The second was to have current students give guided tours of the two schools.
For the banner, the Student Council found a spot in front of the cafeteria that all students would pass by on their way to and from lunch. In addition to signing their names, the students added little messages.
“They wrote things like ‘welcome back’ or ‘it’s been a while,’ and it made it that much more special,” Patton said.
In the end, she approximates that about 500 students – roughly half of the student body – signed the banner. They hung the banner outside the high school, so both the alumni and current students would see it.
“Everyone posed in front of it for a photo,” Patton noted. “It was great to see this cross generational group all together in one place.”
That photo opportunity came as part of the tours that the students provided.
When the class of 1968 graduated, it wasn’t from the current high school building, but rather one that had been demolished to build it. The Thurston Middle School, however, predates both of those buildings, and most of the reunion attendees had gone to school there. That’s why the alumni wanted to tour both the current high school and their old middle school.
“I had too many kids sign up,” she said. “It was amazing, but surprising, to get that response.”
With the two different schools on the tour, Patton said the current students played two different roles. On the Thurston tour, everyone could talk about shared experiences in that building, despite being about 50 years apart. But once the tour moved into the current high school, the students became the experts.
“They answered questions about their time in both schools,” she said. “But once in the new building, they talked about the purposes of all the different areas.”
The reunion organizers had asked WHS principal Sean Bevan for a simple tour of the buildings. Patton noted that this presented a unique opportunity since the schools aren’t often involved in reunions.
“We wanted to do more than just open the doors to the schools,” Patton said. “We really wanted them to feel welcome.”
At the outset, the tours were intended to benefit the alumni, but in the end, Patton thinks the current students benefitted just as much. After the tours, she said students were really excited to talk about the alumni they had met.
“Some of these people are nearly 70 years old, but they all talked about their experiences. It was great,” said Patton.
With that in mind, Patton would like for this to be more than a one-time event. She hopes the alumni involved in future reunions will also want to come look at the schools and meet members of the student body.
“We had never done anything like this before, but the kids would love it if we could make it happen every year.”