A group of Belmont students are unearthing a little West Shore history and they need the public’s help.
Led by Cindy Cullen, the Leadership/Belmont History class is a small, self-directed group working on a historical timeline project. Their goal is to create a permanent feature that will fill an 11-metre display at the school’s front entrance. The timeline will showcase interesting events and activities that happened at Belmont between 1947 to 2015.
“It’s the type of project where you don’t know exactly where it’s going to end up,” Cullen said. “This is a great group.”
Her class, consisting of students from Grades 10 through 12 – including three who attended the old school – has been pouring over old yearbooks and scouring records.
Grade 12 student Ryana Emile is clearly passionate about the project and the discoveries they have already made. “They used to have house systems; I think that’s really interesting,” she said. “You’d get points for doing different things.”
The group is still trying to sort out what types of activities would earn points and what the houses could win for collecting the most. Students have already determined that sports and putting on a play were among the eligible activities.
“I think it’s really cool that everyone could come together,” Emile said. “It would probably feel really nice and inviting.” Some students may not be inclined to participate in activities on their own, she noted, but if they were part of a group activity there would be less pressure.
She was also impressed by the number of students that participated in extracurricular activities. “I think it was really cool that a lot of people were on sports teams.”
Learning more about the school’s sports history is part of what motivated Grade 10 student Gracie May to take the class. “I really wanted to do it … My parents went here,” she said. “When I look through the old yearbooks I find out about them and their sports teams.”
Mattie Duddridge, who’s in Grade 12, noted that sports weren’t the only way for students to get involved. “In the old school there was a mosaic when you entered the school,” she said. The tiled art, located beside the old library, was part of a massive project undertaken in the 1970s as a way to get students together and show their school spirit. “They (even) had a contest to get a design,” she said.
Cullen said Belmont actually started in 1946, a year before the old building was finished. Roughly 30 Grade 9 students were the first class, attending school at the Albert Head annex.
“SD61 said they were no longer taking Sooke students,” Cullen noted as the Victoria school district was full at the time. That was what helped spur the creation of the old Belmont. “We’re hoping to go down there and try to find where the old school was,” she added. “It’s a really fun project.”
In particular, the class is focusing their efforts in the coming weeks on locating photos of Belmont’s early years, including the initial 1946-47 school year at Albert Head. Students also hope to track down more information and images of the mosaic created by Nancy Adams’ yearbook class.
Cullen is reluctant to take credit for the timeline project, nodding to Belmont principal Ray Miller. “He’s had a vision for a couple of years to celebrate the history of the old school,” she said.
The project “wasn’t just an idea that happened over night,” Miller noted. Roughly four years ago when he became principal, in the midst of the design phase for the new building, he realized he had a duty to preserve the old legacy.
“I also had the responsibility that we show great care and respect to the history of Belmont,” he said.
Plans were put in place early on to preserve as much as possible, which included taking pictures of all of the art in the old building that couldn’t be saved. A lot of brainstorming was also done, on how to showcase the school’s legacy.
The timeline was one idea emerging from those sessions, while another is the touch screen displays already active at the school’s front entrance. Items that Cullen’s class finds interesting but can’t fit into their display will be added to these electronic displays.
“It’s a great way to connect young people to the past,” Miller said, adding that involving students with those who have come before them creates a great sense of school spirit and pride.
He has two students he’s working with that are learning how to administer the touch screen displays, which are similar to a website in their technical nature.
Every page of every school annual has been scanned and uploaded to the displays – all except the yearbook from 1974, which has vanished from the school’s records. Miller asked that if anyone in the community has a copy of the book, the school would love to borrow and scan it.
“We’re working hard to show respect to the 60 some-odd years of alumni that have come through the school,” he said. Part of that will include giving the community a say in naming the new display, but that will come when more pieces of the puzzle have been rounded up.
In the meantime, the group is hoping community members lend a hand in their search, as many of the yearbook photos aren’t able to be reproduced. They are looking for good photos that aren’t necessarily of major events. In fact, Cullen said they are especially interested in finding out about events or activities that may have flown under the radar of the community but were important to the school.
If you have photos that capture a memorable or interesting school event that you’d like to share, you can email Cullen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Items can also be dropped of at the office (3041 Langford Lake Rd.) to be scanned and then returned.