So much is different so much is the same. The graduating class of Correlieu Secondary School (CSS) got to compare those notes and make those discoveries 40 years after they threw their mortarboard caps.
CSS stood for Correlieu Senior Secondary back then. It was the only Grade 12 graduation institution in the city. The class of ‘83 had 250 people and 70 of them came together to reminisce and reconvene, an encouraging turnout after all that time.
“We just wanted to celebrate 40 years, which is kind of a big milestone,” said one of the organizers, Dean Guest, who came up from the Lower Mainland for the occasion, and he was not at all the farthest traveller. “This town still has enough of a positive influence that it brought all of us back together again.”
There were even a few people from adjacent grades who heard about the reunion and dropped in to say hello, which pleased everyone, since there are always overlapping friendships between age levels.
There were two dinners organized for everyone to get together over the couple of days involved, one at The Cariboo Pub and one at The Mill Pub, with some interaction during the day as well. People caught up on old times, perhaps really met each other for the first time, and were able to appreciate the people they are now compared to the different people they were more than two entire school cycles ago.
Guest said there was remembrance for those who had died over the years, celebration of the kids and grandkids who had been born, discoveries about people who had lost contact, apologies for past wrongs, and many other mind expanding interactions.
“Forty years is quite a long time: pre-Internet, pre-cell phone, pre-Facebook, it’s the original Gen X,” said Guest. “But kids are kids. I have teenagers now and the way schools are and kids are, it’s not all that different. We all suffer from the same anxieties and social pressures.”
Even the class of ‘83 had some in ‘23. He said the organization phase involved a surprising amount of lobbying people to attend who were concerned about their teenage selves coming into contact with their mature counterparts.
“They were afraid to come back for the reunion because of the way they felt they were perceived back in high school,” Guest explained. “I reached out to a lot of people who were having second thoughts and it was because they thought so-and-so might think they were not a nice person back then. We talked about that, and put postings on Facebook that said look, we’re not the same people we were back then. Forty years is a long time. Even if there was a legitimate reason to have a grudge against someone back then, nobody cares about it now. So, talking about social pressures, all those years later, people are still feeling it. We all suffer from it.”
The experience was so positive, plans are now underway for a 45th reunion, with hopes that people who weren’t able or didn’t feel comfortable attending this event would bring themselves to the next one.
“At the end of the day, we all loved growing up in Quesnel. We all had great memories, we loved the school, we all had great teachers,” he said.
The small town upbringing is not something a lot of young people appreciate at the time, and may even rebel from it. When you have a reunion like this, it’s another discovery to learn how your mind may have changed over time to see the benefits of a tight-knit community, and an education setting that is more personal.
One of the biggest changes, said Guest, was seeing how few of his class went on to university, but now post-secondary opportunities are more varied, more available, and more pursued than his cohort would have ever dreamed at the time.
Guest said, “I hope that the kids who are graduating today think about how they’ll all go on their ways after high school, but the future will undoubtedly pull them back to Quesnel and I hope they take the opportunity to get together, too.”
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