When Valencia High School opened its doors in 1994, the Santa Clarita Valley had not seen a new high school in nearly two decades.
The campus opened with more than 350 sophomores and 550 freshmen who would comprise the classes of 1997 and 1998.
On Saturday, more than 230 of them attended the first-ever 20-year reunion of Valencia High School alumni.
>> View the 1998 Valencia High School Yearbook
Held at Wolf Creek Brewery in Rye Canyon, the joint event for the classes of 1997 and 1998 featured food catered by Wolf Creek Restaurant, a deejay, a photo booth, raffle, games, a souvenir beer mug or wine glass and lots of school pride.
Many of the guests sported the familiar school colors of purple and gold.
In commemoration of one of the SCV’s most outrageous senior pranks, a s’mores bar was set up for dessert.
Stephanie and Christopher Tiffany roast marshmallows at the s’mores bar. Photo: Emily Kamburupitiya, Palinka shots
“The class of 1997 pulled off what is thought as the greatest senior prank of all time,” said Koren Young (1998), a member of the reunion committee. “They flew over the school with an airplane and dropped marshmallows during brunch. The marshmallows were stamped with ’97 on them. To celebrate that prank, we hired a company called S’more Play to set up a s’mores bar for dessert.”
Frank Ferry, a former Santa Clarita city councilman, was a U.S. history and government teacher at Valencia High starting in 1995. He said many of the school’s traditions began with the classes of 1997 and 1998.
“These are such special classes because they were the first two class to graduate from Valencia High School,” Ferry said. “There were no rules, there were no traditions, there were no expectations.”
Ferry served as director of the school’s student activities.
Former Valencia High teacher Frank Ferry reminisces with some of his former students. Photo: Michele E. Buttelman
“Everything was a first for the school at the time,” he said. “The first prom, the first homecoming game, the first homecoming dance. Every single thing we did was the first, and it built the traditions that still remain today.”
The reunion guests included several other teachers and staff members.
James Duncan, a physics and AP physics teacher at Valencia High, said the first two classes were bonded by their experience as the first students through the door at Valencia.
“This was one of the best classes ever at Valencia High,” he said. “One of the things that made it so special was, the first class, the sophomores, came by choice. They had been freshman at other schools and could have finished at those schools, or they could attend this new high school.”
Eric Zakar (1997) said he transferred to Valencia High from Hart High School.
“It was a very unique experience,” Zakar said. “You’d go to other high schools and there are cliques; at Valencia it was different. Everyone did everything together. It was a very welcoming environment. It felt like we were a very unique school.”
Each attendee received a custom wine glass or beer mug. Photo: Kris Garcia (1998)
Zakar said he decided to attend Valencia because of all the damage at Hart High from the 1994 earthquake.
“Hart got hit harder than most other schools. I had the choice to continue at Hart and know that the school would be rebuilding for a long time, or attend a new school and build something new,” he said.
“I enjoyed my time at Valencia very much. I am very grateful I chose to attend Valencia. I was a senior for three years. Not many people can say that.”
A common refrain among the alumni was the memory of the new campus and the lack of shade.
Kristina Pease (1998), nee Pinkerton, traveled from Utah to attend the event.
“I started as a freshman, and I remember it was really hot and there was no shade,” she said.
“These kids here are the ones that raised the $75,000 for the shade structures you still see today at the school,” said Ferry.
Many of the school’s activities were different from what at been done at the SCV’s other high schools, Hart, Canyon and Saugus, he said.
“Once we brought in 40 tons of snow in the middle of the day and had a huge snowball fight,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. We were the first school to feature fireworks, we collected pennies to build a marquee, and we had greased pig in our gym. That was very controversial.”
A somber remembrance of 13 students who have died was featured in a memorial table that included a large poster of the poem, “The Empty Chair,” with a Valencia High lettermen’s jacket draped across the chair. Photos of the students, along with the dates of birth and death, were set in a special display with a votive candle lit for each student.
The reunion committee. Back Row: Koren Young, Heather Torres, Anthony Bedgood. Second row: Kelly Berry, Kristin Ennabe, Amber Molina, Alicia Moore, Pegah Hunt, Eric Zakar. Bottom Row: Michael Tillisch, Robert Cabunoc, Stephanie Tiffany, Brent Hubbard. Photo: Emily Kamburupitiya, Palinka shots
Heather Hayes (1997) transferred to Valencia from Saugus as a sophomore.
“I had a choice, but I wanted to go to Valencia. Most of the kids that I went to junior high with also went to Valencia, so there were a lot of familiar faces,” she said. “Saugus was a little overwhelming. At Valencia there were only two (grade levels), not four.”
Hayes, a member of the reunion committee, remembers what her first day of school was like.
“I can still remember what I wore and that I was carrying my flag pole because I was a member of the color guard that year. I remember thinking: ‘There’s no one above me. I am the top dog, and will always be the top dog for the rest of high school. No one will pick on me,’” she said.
Hayes said it was important to make the reunion a special occasion.
“We were the maiden voyage. This is the first 20-year reunion for Valencia High School, so we had to make it special,” she said.
A portion of the cost of each ticket to the reunion was being donated back to Valencia High, said Young.
“We have $1,000 we are going to donate to the school, and we will also be selling raffle tickets to raise more money tonight,” he said.
Young said efforts are underway to promote the nonprofit Valencia Viking Alumni Association, a new organization open to all classes. Information can be found on Facebook at the Valencia Viking Alumni Association page.
Valencia High was known for its school spirit. The original cheerleaders were well represented Saturday. Photo: Emily Kamburupitiya, Palinka shots
Coach and campus supervisor Rocket Collins is surrounded by some of his old friends. Photo: Emily Kamburupitiya, Palinka shots
Photo: Michele E. Buttelman