Dave Leslie has been to nearly every one of his high school reunions for the last 25 years. But this year was the first time the event made him consider the future instead of the past.
Leslie returned to Nelson last week for his reunion, which included the typical schedule of a class photo and catching up over dinner as well as something new — breakfast with current L.V. Rogers Grade 12 students.
Twenty students sat down with approximately 30 members of Nelson High School’s class of 1954 to learn from each other and find common ground despite being separated by 65 years.
Leslie, who joined the military and spent years overseas after he graduated, hoped the chats gave students a new perspective on an older generation.
“They’ll see a bunch of 82 year olds in maybe a different light than if we were walking down the street,” said Leslie.
“Because we’re the ages of their grandparents. There’s a whole bunch of grandparents here. In a sense, we hope it serves as an inspiration.”
Nelson High School shut down in 1956, making way for LVR’s opening the same year. Event organizer Donna Macdonald said 88 of the 161 people who attended Nelson High School that year (but didn’t necessarily graduate in 1954) are still alive.
The breakfast, held last Thursday at the Prestige Lakeside Resort, rotated LVR students between tables for the impromptu talks.
“This adds an extra little spice to talk to young people about what’s changed, what it’s like to be in high school now, what their dreams and hopes and fears are,” said Macdonald.
“I think it just really added something memorable to it.”
Conversations varied on topics big and small throughout the event. Some groups talked about how employment has changed for graduates, others shared their plans for the future.
Sally Butling returned to Nelson for the reunion but said she wasn’t sure about meeting with students. Her hesitation to take part changed as soon as the breakfast began.
“I think what’s impressing me most is how mature these students are,” said Butling. “The ones I’ve talked to have a plan, they’re focused, they have a direction to go and I think back to me, all I wanted to do was get out of Nelson. I didn’t have any kind of plan. I think that wasn’t unusual in my day.”
Lila McKechnie was one of the LVR students taking part in the event. She drew parallels between the challenges and fears of 1954 in the Cold War era with the climate change anxieties faced by her own generation.
“It’s definitely a full circle moment with them facing horrible challenges in their future at my age, and now sort of the same thing for my generation as well.”
LVR principal Tamara Malloff said the school also has its own intergenerational project, which has shown the benefits of pairing students up with seniors.
“It’s created a real bond between seniors and youth. We’re finding they have more in common than they do not.”
McKechnie said there was a common refrain she heard in her chats with the class of ‘54.
“I got a lot of, ‘keep going,’ ‘persist,’ ‘don’t give up.’ Those sorts of things, which are relevant. It sounds kind of morbid but with the way the Earth is now, you gotta keep going, gotta have faith. Persist.”
That, she said, sounded like good advice.