Perhaps you remember my entry Saving South – an entry about my Lutheran high school possibly closing. Shortly after posting that entry and sending it to the board, our community received the tragic news that our school was officially closing.
My husband’s brother was graduating high school this year. It was a special year for my husband and me, too, as it was 10 years since our graduation. My husband and I drove three hours to go to the last graduation ceremony – both to see his brother graduate and to see our South “family.”
When you go to a small high school, every student knows every other student. We all know each other’s parents and siblings. Sometimes, even current students are familiar with alumni and vice versa. I was so strongly reminded of this when we arrived at the high school with our 8 month old daughter. So many people came up to us – even people we didn’t know very well. It took 15 minutes just for us to make it into the gym because so many people stopped to talk to us, even though we graduated 10 years ago, and we have been out-of-state for 5 years! It was like seeing family again.
It was so amazing to talk to the parents of classmates who couldn’t be there. I am so proud of so many of my classmates. Many of us went on to the ministry – whether becoming a pastor or a Lutheran teacher. Some of us joined the military. Others are raising Christian families. A few have become doctors. One of the parents was telling me how a friend of mine has delivered over 20 babies now. What a special career! How amazing to think that our high school helped provide the foundation for these special jobs. And no matter what career path alumni have chosen, South taught us how to share our faith, and that is the biggest calling of all.
I was flooded with so many memories – some were beautiful and others were painful. High school was a very trying time in my life. I was dealing with so much, and my best friend was going through even worse things. So much of that came back to me more vividly than it has in a long time, and it hurt.
I know some alumni don’t mind seeing South go. Some thought the teachers were too strict. Some went through terrible times in teenage years, and anything associated with that is unwelcome. Some went to the school and loved it, but then decided the bigger world was better. Others hated going to school there, went out into the world, and realized they took the school for granted. The earliest students had so much to overcome – not having a building, not having adequate study materials. The teachers had to fight hard to give the best education possible with limited supplies. (This later changed, and the LHS became a college preparatory school.) But when it comes down to it, no school is bully-free. No teacher is always understanding and forgiving. There is no one size fits all when it comes to schools. Lutheran South wasn’t for everyone.
But for those of us who loved it, it meant the world to us. When we struggled with our faith in those turbulent teen years, we had adults leading us in chapel, praying for and with us, and teaching us about the Bible daily. The Christian faith was integrated into every subject, teaching us how to keep our faith active in every area of our lives.
And for all of us who attended there, we all have happy memories in some way or another. We all had special friendships and learned hard lessons. I decided to search for these happy memories during my last visit to South.
I remember my first day there, walking into my class and seeing this punk kid sitting in a desk by the door. He looked so angry and annoyed. He did not want to be there. I made up my mind to steer clear of him. This memory is a good one because this freshmen ended up loving the school… and loving me. He is my husband. Life is funny.
I remember on a warm, sunny day my freshman year, our school of 17 students raised the American flag for the first time. We were in the newspaper.
We were in the newspaper a few more times for our handbell performances. Our handbell instructor was incredible. She was meticulous about proper technique, and she worked hard to find us challenging pieces and amazing opportunities to play, such as at the Detroit Athletic Club. By the end of my time with her, I had learned how to play up to 13 handbells in a duet!
I remember going to school in our double-wide trailer. One day, a storm rolled in just as school was getting out. I remember the clouds looking low enough to touch the trees – and green enough to match them. There wasn’t anywhere very safe in the event of a tornado, but we headed into the bathrooms for shelter where we made an amazing discovery. There was hail coming in through the vents!
I remember the woman who was our science and English teacher sitting on her desk, cross legged, teaching us Shakespeare and anatomy.
I remember ordering pizza every Friday with garlic butter dipping sauce. One boy dared me to chug it for $5… and I did.
I remember talking about the TV show LOST with our principal. We were obsessed.
I remember one boy in the class below me stuffing two grapes in his mouth like fangs and strutting around the room like a T-rex. We all nearly choked on our lunches, laughing so hard.
I remember one of the teachers, who was also a pastor (and who would become my father-in-law) leading a chapel service and using the song Dare You to Move by one of my favorite bands, Switchfoot. I about jumped out of my seat.
I remember near the end of my senior year, when our principal’s wife had a massive heart attack… how we all came together and prayed like we had never prayed before. Even though the doctors said she had no chance of surviving, she did.
I remember graduating with the four boys in my class. I remember breaking ground for the building of the gym – the first permanent building. We worked so hard to fundraise for that building.
I remember taking a picture with the guys in my class and with the graduation cake, and they all tried to smash my face in it.
I remember saying goodbye to Frank after graduation, and he hugged me. I remember wondering if he did it simply as a congratulation and goodbye, or if maybe he liked me. I remember later looking at our pictures and realizing he and I stood very close together, unlike everyone else. (We later went to college together, and he asked me out on September 25, 2006. We were married June 26, 2010.)
There are so many amazing memories I have from this school. The school has been taken away from us, but our memories will last forever. We couldn’t save our school. We couldn’t get enough students. The economy is just too difficult right now for parents to pay tuition, even with the help of scholarships and donations. In many ways, I feel like I failed my school because it’s gone now. But when I think about it, maybe it isn’t about saving South. Maybe it is about how South saved me. Maybe it is about the testimonies of all the other alumni who also cherish this school as more than just a school.
South gave us an education.
South gave us friends.
South gave us mentors.
South gave us a safe place when the world was too much.
South gave us a foundation for our faith in Jesus.
South saved us.
I will never grow tired of sharing my memories of my high school years. They are unique, special, and powerful. I thank God for the short time our Lutheran high school had to make a difference in people’s lives.
Raising the flag the firs time (2002-2003 school year)
The original double-wide trailer (Summer 2006)
Class of 2006 Graduation
Breaking ground for the building of the gym
The boys and me, right before they tried to push my face in the cake.
The current building