Fenton High building embarks on 50th anniversary

Andrea Elsholz, Features Editor

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Fifty years ago, the last set of graduates were handed their diploma at the Ellen Street campus and a new building was christened Fenton High. As the new building embarks on its fiftieth anniversary, community members are coming together to celebrate.

“A lot of visitors come to the building; they can’t believe it’s 50 years old because it’s so well kept up,” Principal Mark Suchowski said. “Ellen Street was the original high school. There were parts dating back to the 1800s, but were torn down because of safety reasons. But if you look carefully at the brick on the outside, you can see how the district has added to the current configuration.”

The previous building at Ellen Street has been present in the Fenton community for a long time. In fact, many alumni from the class of 1969 attended kindergarten in the same building they graduated from. 

“We were happy to be graduating, but sad to be the last class out of Ellen Street,” Fenton Alumni Carla Juarez said. “Our parents and grandparents graduated from there; it was bittersweet. My whole life has been in Fenton. I’m so proud to be a part of it. I’d like to tell current students don’t be in such a hurry. High school is an important part of life; it’s where you build your character. No matter what you do you will always remember your high school years.” 

The anniversary was celebrated in a variety of ways, from a special performance of the alma mater at the 2018-19 graduation ceremony, to a mural painted in the hallway.

“Suchowski really wanted the mural to relate to the 50th anniversary,” senior Lauren Megdanoff said. “There were a lot of debates in getting seven people to create one cohesive piece. Our goal was to represent aspects of Fenton High people don’t really think of like the arts, band, choir, publications. There’s more to Fenton than meets the eye. It helped me find my place in the world. I love science but I also paint and play my instrument. And that’s what Fenton showed me; that I don’t have to pick one thing.”

Over the years, there have been many renovations to the building and alongside them, an evolution of traditions and rules. 

“We had a few different rules,” Juarez said. “Girls had to wear skirts. They would kneel down and hems would touch the ground. Guys had to have their hair at least two inches above their eyebrows. We had an open lunch hour, where we could go across the street. Our homecoming was right after the game, so we would go in t-shirts and jeans and not dresses. We had the bonfire back at the west end of the school. Everyone stayed overnight protecting it. But a lot of the traditions we had are the same as now. We painted the rock. We had parades where we would build floats. We had pep rallies.”

The new Fenton High remains a center for learning and a connection for community members.

“We’re the product of a community that values education and is willing to invest in it while having high expectations,” Suchowski said. “We are unique in that we have a lot of people who go to school here, go away and start their careers, and come back to raise families. There are a lot of three-generation Fenton High School graduates. We have a lot of people who value the experience they had here and want that for their own families.”

In the next 50 years to come, the administration hopes to hold Fenton to a standard of excellence.

“I want Fenton students to continue to have a well-rounded opportunity for high school,” Suchowski said. “I want them to look back and say they’re ready for the next chapter of their lives. I think we do a pretty good job and I want that to continue.” 

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