Chaparral says ‘Aloha’ to 50-year mark

It was a chilly luau, indeed, for guests at Chaparral Elementary School’s 50th anniversary celebration on Friday evening. Gusts of wind caused paper lanterns to swing to and fro, and temperatures dipping into the 50s prompted shivering students to layer coats over their Hawaiian-style garb.

School spirit, however, warmed up the crowd, which included current Chaparral families, alums who consider themselves “forever Roadrunners” and local luminaries like Claremont Unified School District Superintendent Jim Elsasser.

Retired Chaparral Principal Dave Paul, who was the school’s head administrator for 27 years, served as the guest of honor. He took to the stage after being introduced by current principal Julie Olesniewicz, clad in a Hawaiian shirt and a kukui nut necklace.

“Oh my goodness, you thought you got rid of me,” he joked. “You’re thinking, ‘He’s back, for crying out loud.”

Mr. Paul discussed the changes that have taken place since the school’s founding, which occurred not long after America’s post-war Baby Boom, when “you couldn’t build houses or schools fast enough.” Perhaps the biggest transformation he has seen is the explosion of the personal computer and the growth of the information age.

“In the mid-‘60s, I worked with a computer that was as big as your teacher’s desk,” he told the incredulous students.

Then it was on to questions of the future.

“What is the next 50 years going to bring? What legacy will today’s parents and children leave at Chaparral?” Mr. Paul posed.

Speaking of cheerleaders, the evening’s excitement included a special announcement of the results from a student vote. Heretofore, the school’s mascot—who was represented by a mystery volunteer in a roadrunner suit—will be known as Rocket the Roadrunner.

Guests stayed as long as they stand the cold to partake of an array of family fun.

“At least it’s not raining,” Ms. Olesniewicz said philosophically.

Rain would come later in the night, but in the meantime there were carnival games, a hula hooping station and karate demonstrations by Claremont’s Z Ultimate Self Defense Studios to be enjoyed. Guests could also get a glittery “tattoo” at a booth run by a local Girl Scout troop and string wooden beads and puka shells into a necklace.

Food trucks offered wares like burgers, tortas and frozen treats. There was also music aplenty, including a welcome by the Claremont High School Marching Band, a performance by the Claremont Ukulele club and Polynesian songs presented by students under the guidance the school school’s music director, Lisa Pettygrove.

Grant Walsh joined his second-grade class in singing a humorous ode to the triggerfish, whose Hawaiian name is notoriously long: humuhumunukunukuapua’a. As he waited in line for a food truck burger, conspicuously wearing shorts, he seemed immune to the inclement weather.

“It’s warm,” Grant insisted.

His mom Amy explained their family recently moved from a much-cooler Boston, so her husband John could assume the post of associate head coach and defensive coordinator of the Pomona-Pitzer Sagehens’ football team. It’s been a good move for her son.

“I like the community around Chaparral,” Grant said. “It’s real nice and welcoming.”

Perhaps Mr. Young said it best during his speech, which drew applause and cheers.

“Chaparral is so much more than a school. Our ties last so much longer than seven years you attend the school,” he said. “It’s a family. This is our family reunion.”

—Sarah Torribio


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