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The Very First Graduation, Class Rings and Prom

By Angel Nuñez

Before 1971 nobody had heard or participated in a graduation ceremony in San Pedro. There were no kindergartens, no high school, no Junior College, no university. Of course, there was the San Pedro R.C. School but the farewell/leaving criterion was simply to reach the age of 14.  Some kids reached the age of 14 in Standard IV or V and that is when they left.  Others reached Standard VI at the tender age of 12 or 13 and they were compelled to repeat that class until the legal age to leave. At the end of the school year, the teacher gave out report cards and there were no more promotions because that was the end of the formal education system in San Pedro. Girls started to do house keeping and boys went into fishing. Only a selected and fortunate one or two ever got to go to high school and they graduated from Saint John’s College in Belize City. I was one of those few fortunate kids graduating in 1967.

But then in 1971 San Pedro High School was founded and worked diligently towards its goal of its first graduation. Every year they added one more class until they reached their first graduation in 1976.  That was the very first time San Pedro witnessed a graduation in full pomp and circumstances. I can set the scene because I was there.  It was a class of ten graduates and I recall their names as they were the heroes and heroines- Clarita Ancona, Emily Castillo, Lydia Gonzalez, Odilia Salazar, James Azueta, Abel Guerrero Jr., Orlando Trejo, Efrain Guerrero Jr., Pedro Vasquez, and Guillermo Paz.

Clarita Ancona, Emily Castillo, Lydia Gonzalez, Odilia Salazar, James Azueta, Abel GuerreroJr., Orlando Trejo, Efrain Guerrero Jr., Pedro Vasquez, and Guillermo Paz.

The valedictorian was James Azueta.  The guest speakers were two: Mr. Al Felly of Madison Wisconsin  (biggest benefactor ever), and Hon. Louis Sylvestre, Area Representative. The chairlady was Mrs. Celi McCorkle. That year in 1976, I gave my very first Graduation address and Principal’s report. It was a great report which showed we were borrowing four classrooms within the community.  I must admit I was nervous but extremely happy. The venue was the large classroom at the R.C. School because the Catholic Church was not finished yet. The celebrant of the Thanksgiving Mass was the late Father Robert Raszkowski.

That was the year of the very first graduation of any level or grade in San Pedro. And that was the year San Pedro high School issued its proud graduation ring too with much pomp and circumstance. The Class of 1976 held a formal dinner along with escorts and their parents and priest and teacher, at the rooftop of Marino’s Club so we can call that their first prom ever too. I’m sure a few members of the Class of 1976 still proudly wear their class rings and remember that joyous day 25 years ago.


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