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The San Juan High School of today might be very different from that of 108 years ago, but school spirit among generations of alumni was alive and well on Saturday as past graduates gathered at Rusch Park for a six-hour “All Class Picnic.”
The event drew over 200 people to the Rusch home and surrounding grounds. Several classes set up tables where alumni reconnected over a barbecue lunch and vintage vehicles. Saturday’s reunion was the first since the pandemic forced organizers to postpone last year’s event.
San Juan High School’s beginning and intermediate band gave an opening performance, while current students sold raffle tickets. Organizers said proceeds from the lunch went to the booster club.
Alumnus from the class of 1960 Jerry Still said he worked with Citrus Heights Historical Society President Larry Fritz to organize the event. The Rusch home was open during the event and Fritz said several alumni were seeing the interior of the historic house for the first time.
Aside from current students participating in the event, the most recent class represented was 2018. Jerry Still estimated about 35 classes were represented in all, many of them from the 1960s and 1970s. He said the sense of school spirit has waned in recent decades.
One person keeping that spirit alive is Cheer Squad Coach Roxane Castaneda. With her youngest daughter a senior at San Juan High School, Castaneda said meeting alumni is important for today’s youth.
“It’s exciting,” she said. “I’m excited that the girls get to see the different classes and how the school used to look and how school used to be.”
One of those alumni who remembers when San Juan High School was a small rural school was 90-year-old Eltha Hannum, class of 1949. Hannum said the school today is much different than when she was a student.
“It has changed a lot,” she said. “It’s a much larger school, now they have a five career paths which if fantastic. A lot of our students can’t afford to go on to college so when they leave the school, they’ve got what they need to get out and get those jobs.”
For Still, seeing people come together is what gives the picnic a sense of purpose.
“I’m just glad when people enjoy themselves,” Still said. “There’s too much negativity in this world.”
As the event concluded, the alumni gathered for a group photograph. Generations of San Juan Spartans stood on the steps of the Rusch House and spontaneously broke out singing the school’s alma mater.
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