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Commentary & Photos by Sarah Brewer Thompson
| Sunday, Aug 30, 2015

sarahbrewerthompson_mugFor most people in the Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys, Saturday was like most August days – hot, dry, uneventful. But for the communities of Acton and Agua Dulce, it was a day of joy and celebration … the culmination of more than a decade of work, support and hope that finally materialized in the official dedication of the new Vasquez High School campus.

For me, a proud 2006 graduate of Vasquez High School and K-12 attendee of the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District, this day was combination of nostalgia and the surreal experience of setting foot on something we never thought would happen.

For those who could not attend, group tours can be arranged through the district before the fall semester starts Sept. 7.

The ceremony opened with a warm welcome from Vasquez Principal Ty Devoe to the tremendous crowd of hundreds, which consisted of students – future, past and present – community members, local media and the dedicated staff of the district and school.

_cheer6Looking around the crowd, one could already see a few tears of joy, triumph and pride. The Boy Scouts of America performed the presentation of colors, with Vasquez High’s ASB Executive President Sammy Dene leading the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Then came a beautiful acapella rendition of “God Bless America” by the school’s advanced performing vocal ensemble, The Heard. After touching tributes, the JV and varsity cheerleaders – who got the crowd going with one of the home cheers – formed a sparkling purple and gold line down the center aisle, poms waving in the air to form a tunnel, to welcome the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District governing board through to the new outdoor stage, which will soon host its first homecoming assembly and pep rally.

_ribboncutting3Down the path came Superintendent Brent Woodard, board President Edward Porter, Vice President Mark Distaso, Clerk Mike Fox and board members Matthew Ridenour and Larry H. Layton. Also present were U.S. Rep. Steve Knight, Dean of Students Wendy Barnes, and district administrators Kim Lytle, Steve Budhraja, Willard Simmons and Paulette Beuchner.

Anyone familiar with the history of the school could not help but think about the struggle that led to this day.

 

Long Road

Vasquez High School opened in 1993 to a freshman class of about 70 students and operated alongside High Desert Junior High School at the district’s Crown Valley Road location. Then in 1999, with the campus hosting full classes of grades 7-12, the schools were divided and Vasquez High School moved to its current location off of Red Rover Mine Road.

Consisting entirely of portable buildings with no library, multi-purpose room or standard-sized cafeteria, students, staff and the community hoped these facilities were only temporary until a permanent campus could be funded and built.

Rep. Steve Knight congratulates Superinetndent Brent Woodard

Rep. Steve Knight congratulates Superinetndent Brent Woodard

As the years passed, the need for basics – a sit-in cafeteria, a multi-purpose room, a library, a gym (which had been closed) – along with the wear and tear on the modest portables drove the Vasquez High community to attempt to pass a bond measure to secure the funding that was needed to make the dream happen. After multiple losses at the polls, even despite the students’ and many community members’ support, hope was at an all-time low.

Then in 2008, bond measure CF passed, with the district at long last receiving approval for $13 million, which was matched by the state of California (to build the beautiful new gym that is still under construction, as well as other projects for the school).

Although the groundbreaking would come many years after the bond was approved, at long last, 2015 brought the completion of a large part of the new campus, much to the excitement of the students, families, staff and community supporters.

New science lab

New science lab

It was a lengthy uphill battle to bring all of this to fruition. The conflict over the bond measures divided members of the communities of Acton and Agua Dulce, with parents of students struggling with seeing their kids have poor conditions at the school, students who felt that their communities thought so little of them that they did not deserve a “real” school, and the community members who thought that either the new facilities were not necessary or that the bonds were not constructed in a practical way.

For the years of conflict and tension, the right bond passed at the right time, leading the way to a campus that is completely up-to-date in style and technology. So the few years of delay may have proven beneficial.

 

School board member Matthew Ridenaur

School board member Matthew Ridenaur

Bright Future

On Saturday, Superintendant Woodard greeted the crowd, expressing his happiness with the way the campus has turned out and his excitement for the many wonderful things to come. Acknowledging the divide of the past, Woodard said, “I hope that, regardless of whether you supported it at that time or not, you do now.”

By the looks of it, Vasquez High School is on a tremendous upswing, and this dedication marks the dawn of a wonderful, much-deserved new era for these small communities.

Following Woodard in a touching talk to the crowd, longtime Agua Dulce resident and school board president Edward Porter said that while many attendees never saw their children attend the new campus, the effort “was about something much bigger than that.” He spoke frankly with the audience, saying, “it was about uniting our community and providing a future and proper learning setting for our children: something that these exceptional kids truly deserve.”

_classrooms2Board member Larry H. Layton gave thanks to the many people it took over the years to make the new campus a reality. Not initially a support of the bond measures, it goes to show how the right bond and the right time was the key that resulted in facilities that exceed everyone’s expectations.

Then the moment came. Golden scissors glistened in the sun as the board cut the bright purple ribbons, marking the dedication of the school.

Also presented to the crowd was a bronze plaque that will be affixed to the front office bearing the names of the board members, the date of the dedication and the names of the architect, Christofi Architects Inc., and the contractor, JTS Construction.

Then The Heard and cheer squads took the stage one last time to perform a very special tribute: the alma mater of Vasquez High. Together they sang:

 

_program-almamater1We Stand together Vasquez High School

Purple and Gold shining so true

Guiding our path for all days

All through our lives we’ll always see you

In our hearts and minds we’ll keep you

With all of the knowledge you gave

We are Mustangs, we ride with pride

There’s no challenge in life we can’t face

We pledge forever Vasquez High School

Love and loyalty beside you

And though we must go, it remains

 

Gymnasium under construction

Gymnasium under construction

As the ceremony drew to a close, the crowd vibrated with excitement to see the new campus. Tours began at noon, with a delicious barbeque lunch provided free to guests, courtesy of the Acton Market Country Store.

Walking around the campus, visitors followed the excited students (athletes, ASB members, The Heard) as they showed proudly to the public their new facilities. From the two large science labs to the extra-large, shiny new culinary arts room to the band room (complete with storage for instruments and two practice rooms) to the state-of-the-art classrooms that will encourage student interaction, the new campus gleamed, as did the students and staff who will be filling it with life as the semester begins.

All in all, it was a big day for these small communities. It was a day with lots of tears of joy, laughter, pride, hugs and celebration. As a proud member of these communities, I congratulate everyone involved and cannot wait to see the Mustangs soar – through academics, art, sports, creativity and pride.

Thank you to all of those who have supported this project year after year. You have given a gift so tremendous that the future is brighter than ever for our youth.

Cheers to the Vasquez High School Mustangs!

 

 

Sarah Brewer Thompson was born and raised in Agua Dulce, where she learned to love and appreciate nature and history. She is a master’s student at California State University, Northridge, and a docent at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park. Her areas of interest are local history, archaeology and animal studies.

 

Comment On This Story
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20 Comments

  1. Awesome article Sarah!!

  2. Judi Baker Judi Baker says:

    This is a wonderful article, Sarah! Great photos, too! I’m so thrilled for the students and staff that will be attending VHS! Hopefully this will bring a new, exciting era of pride and learning for these communities.

  3. Lisa Smith says:

    Glad it finally happened but, good grief, terribly awkward writing. No acknowledgment of all the community leaders responsible for this finally coming to fruition and who stuck with it for years. “Community who didn’t care about the students enough to build a real campus”? Good Lord, get over yourself Brewer.

  4. Linda Harbeson says:

    Thanks for the great story on the wonderful day of triumph for our communities Sarah! It has been a long time coming and I am thrilled, after serving on 3 bond committees, to see the new VHS come true!! I hope the students appreciate all the hard work of so many to make this happen and they love and take good care of their beautiful new school. Go Mustangs!

  5. My peanut is in this picture! Grammie and Grandpa love you

  6. Shawn Curry Shawn Curry says:

    Mines the tall one front and center. So proud

  7. C. Harris says:

    Way to go CHEER

  8. This is so great! Our daughter was in the first class to graduate from Vasquez in 1997, our son followed on 2000. Congratulations to the students, faculty and community of Acton-Agua Dulce! So well deserved!

  9. Jesse Teel Jesse Teel says:

    Holy crap. I never thought it would happen as a class of 2000 graduate. Congratulations Acton and Agua Dulce

  10. Way to represent ladies and gentleman!

  11. This is wonderful! The students have waited a long time for this. Now, can we work start working on the huge bullying problem that is running rampant there?

  12. Great event. Ridiculously awkward writing of a very important story. You also left out many important people who saw this through. Self-centered as usual.

  13. Patricia Brewer says:

    Wow Lisa, so much hating going on. How many times are you going to reply the same thing. The story Sarah wrote gave a brief history on the struggle to build the school, and it finally being a reality. Everyone I have talked to said the story was so beautifully written. But if you want to write your own story about all of the people along the way who helped, I would love to read it. They are all important, and there would have been to many to list in a story that was really about the new facility and the excitement surrounding it. I didn’t think we lived in a society where we trash those around us who do not write what we want them to write. You don’t have to like the article, but really, Lisa, to post twice in 2 days, how much you hated it is really odd. Kind of scary, actually!

    • Ed Porter says:

      Thank you Sarah for all the time and effort that you put into researching and writing this great article. Your style was engaging and while I know nearly all the facts, there were refreshing points and memories brought up that were quite pleasant. Throughout the groundbreaking ceremony, numerous pivotal board meetings and many other public forums, the countless contributors of this colossal project have been sufficiently thanked and recognized. Sadly a few are no longer with us, and also sadly, many did not see their own kids attend the new VHS. (Also remember that some brd members that did not speak, has lengthy speeches at the ground breaking, so much was recognized over a long period through repeated rounds of recognition.

      Saturday was about something else. It was a celebration of a new beginning… And the article was appropriately focusing on the event as a whole and it also provided a brief background history. I think that it was compelling, well-written and creative. As a trained writer myself, I would give her an A+.

      The single criticism pointed at her here seems to have a personal nature and I believe that the inappropriate forum in which the commenter chooses to air out this grievance, speaks volumes about its lack of validity…

  14. Jay Panico says:

    Congratulations Acton and Agua Dulce! I’m a proud graduate of Vasquez Class of 2000! I’m so happy to hear that the campus is built. We were the first class to graduate on the new campus. All the best!

  15. Lisa Smith says:

    Brewer – you’re the one using the word ‘hate’. Didn’t know both comments would show up in the same string. And I have no desire to write or I would. Let’s stick to the point: Awkward writing/reporting and self-centered perspective. But, that’s Leon’s problem I guess. Thanks

    • SCVNews.com says:

      Not going to step into this except to point out that it is clearly labeled “commentary” and it appears in the op-ed/commentary section.

  16. Lisa Smith says:

    Fair enough. And to be honest, I generally never read Sarah’s stories (yawn) but, this was an extremely important event for our communitees and I did not see any other coverage by SCVTV.

  17. Sarah Brewer says:

    Thank you guys and gals for the kind words. It sure was a really emotional day for so many there, in the best possible way. It means so much coming from people like you, the alumni, those who served/still serve on the boards and committees, and those community supporters who thrilled this has finally happened. I can only imagine the excitement of the seniors this year that just started this week, and the staff settling into their new offices and classroom. I bet the campus must just be abuzz. Such a great thing all around.

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