A black-and-white photo from 1950 shows 16 students lined up in two rows.
The first graduating class of Belmont Senior Secondary school, evenly split between young men and women, the very first Belmont alumni. Almost 65 years later, the school they graduated from is coming down and principal Ray Miller hopes Belmont alumni reunite to form a legacy with its first mandate to help let go.
“We only get one shot at saying goodbye to this old building and we need to do it right. Having an alumni is a critical piece,” he said. “It’s the perfect time for this community, the alumni to pull together, create a governance and be part of saying goodbye.”
Miller and a handful of former students started meeting two years ago to look at creating a non-profit alumni association for Belmont. The idea was to put on events such as reunions, community projects, fundraising initiatives and other gatherings, including a salute to one of the oldest active high schools in Greater Victoria.
“The last thing we want to hear when we move out of this building into the new one is we didn’t respect 65 years of peoples’ memories,” Miller said. “It is critically important we allow the community to say goodbye in the most respectful and thoughtful way, so when it does see the bulldozer … we can say we did it right.”
Lloyd Powell (class of ‘63) is one of the four founders who met earlier this month to discuss the future of the Belmont Alumni Association. The group hopes to get more grads on board, he said, when it hosts an open house and information meeting next Monday (Nov. 24).
“We hope to operate as a fundraising organization to hopefully provide those extra things for the (community) and the new school,” he said. “With the budget restraints, (we) hope to provide the little extra things in the school that can help make it better.”
Powell, the former head of athletics and extra-curricular activities at Belmont for more than 20 years, said the school was built in 1947 from army barracks from Albert Head before being moved to the current site on Jacklin Road. The building has seen more than 15 significant additions and renovations over its six-decade history.
“It’s a great way to reconnect with people, whether it is people you have graduated with or haven’t seen in years,” Powell said.
Work is already underway digitally capturing the photos and artwork on the walls that can’t be moved to the new school. The new Belmont, set to open next September, will feature digital touch-screen displays at the entrance, where visitors can come to scroll through photos and artwork from the past. The old school closes its doors at the end of the current academic year with 450 expected graduates.
“It’s important that future generations realize their roots started in this school and I think it is hugely important we hang on to our history,” Powell said. “I don’t think we should ever forget where our roots are and for me my roots are in this school.”
Anyone interested in being a part of the new Belmont Alumni Association or donating can email Powell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Their open house takes place Nov. 24 at the Belmont cafeteria at 7 p.m.