Twelve years later he’s all grown up, living in Loma Linda and studying for a master’s degree and doctorate in biochemistry at the same time.
Calexico Mission School “taught me the fundamentals to have success in college,” Helu said. The school is also responsible for “lots of fun memories,” he added with a smile.
Helu, 26, was just one of the numerous former students who returned to the school Saturday for the school’s 75th anniversary.
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“It’s good to see all the lives and people the school has impacted,” Helu said.
Alumni from as far away as Lincoln, Neb., return to Calexico for this celebration, said Principal Susan Smith. “Facebook has been wonderful” to help spread the word, she said.
Every five years the school organizes a special event for its anniversary, according to Smith. And this year, the celebration was scheduled to last all day.
Sabbath worship took place in the morning. Then came the Parade of Champions and success stories, followed by prayer.
In the afternoon the school’s official band, the “Mission Singers,” had a reunion concert after years of absence; and to finish it all, a kermese, or festival.
“After 11 years I’m back,” said Pastor Bernardo Solomon while he greeted people. He is not only a former student but also a former teacher. “Everything has changed for good,” said Solomon, who graduated in the mid-1970s.
Like Helu, Solomon notes that the school taught him “solid foundations for my life in terms of values and challenged me to be a professional.”
“I am the first college graduate in my family,” he said after a pause.
“It’s great,” said Marvin Fehrenbach, 84, the school’s principal from 1970 to 1982. “I see a lot of wonderful friends here,” he said moments after greeting 1975 alumnus Tony Valenzuela.
“What started off as a little school for English-as-a-second-language students got up to 400 students,” said Principal Smith. But that was before “the economy went bad on us,” she said.
The school’s attendance may have been reduced to some 275 students, still, infrastructure growth continues; just as it has done so in the last 10 years that Smith has been a principal.
The new plan is to build a building just for creative sciences, she said.
The school just started racing the funds for this building, Smith said, “but in four more years this (new building) should be done and then I can retire knowing that (everything) is in.”
Staff Writer Alejandro Davila can be reached at 760-337-3445 or firstname.lastname@example.org