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Farewell celebration for Ursuline High School

Monday, June 13th, 2011 | Posted by | no responses

By RANDI ROSSMANN

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

In a final goodbye, Ursuline High School on Sunday celebrated its long Sonoma County history, attracting hundreds of alumni, former and recent staff and family

Members of the Ursuline High School community attend a Mass in the school's gymnasium as part of a celebration of 130 years of the school on Sunday, June 12, 2011. (BETH SCHLANKER/ PD)

members to the campus north of Santa Rosa.

But mixed in with the celebration was sadness over this month’s closure of the 130-year-old girls Catholic school.

“It’s a bag of emotions,” Jacqui Champion, Ursuline class of 1962, said as she fought back tears.

“Lots of memories. Lots of jokes,” she said. “I’m seeing old friends. You form such bonds. It’s like it was yesterday.”

“Today is upbeat. The spirit is alive and well,” said Carol August, acting vice principal, longtime counselor and a 32-year employee whose three daughters all are Ursuline grads.

August too shook away tears to keep with the day’s celebratory theme.

“It’s the end of an era but the beginning of a new thing,” she said. “Whether we have a school or not Ursuline will always be a part of this community.”

Sunday’s event included a mass, a slide show with photos from throughout the years, a barbecue and reams of reminiscing.

Graduates from the 1960s regaled younger Ursuline grads with tales of living at the B Street “old Ursuline” house in Santa Rosa and remembering a time when all of the teachers were nuns and before boys moved in next door to the Ursuline Road campus.

There were laughs over old school uniforms and sports wear. A popular draw was a table holding yearbooks from several years.

With it’s bear mascot and blue and white colors, Ursuline was Sonoma County’s only all-girls high school and a major player in county sports, academics and community service.

In November, the sisters of Ursuline announced they were going to close the school. They cited financial troubles associated with an historically declining enrollment, coupled with increased demand for financial assistance, for the decision.

Since then the school has seen a series of “lasts,” including the final graduation on May 29 and the last day of class on June 7.

Next fall, most Ursuline students have decided to start attending Cardinal Newman High School, which is next to the Ursuline campus. Ursuline and Newman students had shared some classes, but the all-boys Catholic school went coed after the Ursuline announcement.

Graduates and former faculty Sunday spoke of Ursuline’s legacy of academics and giving, the fierce pride of its graduates and the close-knit feeling of the all-girls school.

Jazlynn McCoy-Loose, 16, who attended Ursuline for only two years and next year will be a junior at Newman, felt the bond.

“The sisterhood,” she said. “It’s sad. Everyone’s really close here.”

“Lasting friendships,” said Kathy Petersen Youngblood, class of 1986.

“It was a very empowering experience for young women,” said former Ursuline chemistry teacher Sue Evans. “If you’ve not gone to an all-girls high school, you can’t know.”

“It’s been a wonderful experience,” said Champion, who holds decades of Ursuline-related memories since her graduation in 1962. “Santa Rosa will not be the same.”

You can reach Staff Writer Randi Rossmann at 521-5412 or at randi.rossmann@pressdemocrat.com.

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