Having opened at 800 E. Gun Hill Road in 1913, Evander Childs stopped accepting new students into the school on September 2004, as it will graduate its last class in June before turning into the Evander Childs Campus, housing six smaller schools.
“It’s a very emotional time for us,” said Principal Monica Ortiz-Urena, “We have close to 100 years of history.”
The principal, who began in 2003, notes that it has been very hard for the kids currently enrolled. “We worked hard to have them understand,” she said, “It’s just very emotional having seen the turn around from the school’s violent past to the safe, academic success it has become now, only to have to say goodbye.”
Tineisha Graham, who will attend Buffalo State College in the fall, noted her sadness, as one of the last graduating students from the school.
“It’s sad to know we have nowhere to go back to,” she said, “The whole experience has brought our whole class closer together.”
Linda Nana, another senior, agreed with Graham, saying that she would protest if she could while Richard Morales, who will be attending SUNY Canton in the fall, had mixed emotions.
“It’s unfortunate that this is happening,” he said, “This event today is great though. I hope that we can still have reunions like this in the future even though the school is closing.”
There were many tears, both of joy and unhappiness as the farewell party continued throughout the evening.
Alum and retired staff, Dorothea Lombardo, delivered a heartfelt speech to the crowd. She noted her 48 years of service working at Evander, from substitute teacher all the way to assistant principal of science, as some of the best years of her life.
“The spirit of Evander will live on,” she said. “Cherish your memories and follow your dreams.”
Muriel Chaleff-Kermish ’33 was in attendance with her son and was thankful that she could be there to take part in such a “lovely” celebration.
“I wish more people from my class were here,” Kermish noted, adding that she has lost touch with many of her classmates in the 75 years since she graduated, and hopes that with the school closing the same doesn’t happen to the graduates of today.
“Every time I hear about Evander I stop what I am doing to listen,” added Lorraine Marshall ’65, “It’s sad that they have to close but this is such a great day. I hope they have more like it in the coming years.”
While mixed emotions waved over the 500+ at the Villa Barone, Ortiz-Urena noted that in the five years she has been with the school she has grown and learned more than she ever would have in her life.
“The staff and kids are very supportive and wonderful to be around,” she said. “I wish it wasn’t all coming to an end.”