Quaker Valley celebrates legacies with ‘Hindsight is 2020’ yearbook project

Friday, March 6, 2020 | 10:01 AM

At Quaker Valley High School, it’s all in the family.

That’s especially true for 24 of the 148 members of the Class of 2020. Each of them is a legacy at Quaker Valley – that means that their moms or dads, and sometimes four to five generations before them went to school in the community.

“This is unique. This is a very tight-knit community,” said Nina Strelec, high school art teacher who serves as yearbook advisor. “There are not too many communities like this where they basically said, ‘I’m born and raised in Quaker Valley. I want my kids to go here too.’ It’s something to be celebrated.”

Strelec was looking for a way to capture the idea that “hindsight is 2020” in the yearbook. She thought it was important to look back at the school’s past.

To capture its history, the Quaker Valley yearbook staff is dedicating several pages this year to 2020 graduates that are QV legacies. The six to eight pages in the yearbook will feature photos of the families, some of their stories and even images of yearbooks dating back to 1924 at Sewickley High School, said senior yearbook editor Madeline Dunda, 17. This year’s yearbook also will feature polaroid photos.

Families with a history in the district were invited to stop by the school on two occasions in the last few weeks to get pictures taken of their 2020 graduate and the moms, dads and grandparents who went to school in the community before them.

Photographer John Doucette, a retired Quaker Valley teacher, snapped the family portraits against a white backdrop inside the high school.

“Every picture that I look at, I just get goosebumps,” Strelec said. “We don’t celebrate legacy enough. I think that we need to celebrate where we came from.”

Some high school seniors have gone looking for their parents in yearbooks from many years ago and laugh at the photos they find of mom or dad in their youth.

“And then you have these sweet moments where grandma comes with the picture of her mom,” Strelec said. “It’s something special that they are in this little group — this special group — of graduates.”

Families were encouraged to bring memorabilia from the past. Some brought pictures of older generations that attended schools in the community who are no longer with us.

Senior Sydney Persuit, 18, brought a picture of her pap pap playing basketball at Leetsdale High School. He graduated from the school in 1950.

Seventy years later, Sydney is set to graduate from the same school — although now it goes by a different name.

“Growing up, especially with my pap pap and my family, it was all about community,” Sydney said.

Her dad, Frank, a 1989 Quaker Valley graduate, has five siblings that attended the school.

He brought his old football jersey along for the picture taken of him, Sydney and the photo of pap pap, Jerry Persuit. He was known in the community for bringing Little League to the region. That’s something Sydney talks about with a smile.

For Sydney, it’s more important to have photos with her family in the yearbook than her friends.

“Family is more important,” she said. “It’ll be nice to look back in the yearbook whenever I have kids and be able to tell them about my pap pap.”

Senior Dylan Norris brought his mom, Kelly Williams, a 2000 graduate, and granddad Dwight Norris, a 1969 graduate, to the photo session.

For Dylan, it’s a bit weird that his family members did the exact same things as him in the same exact school.

But times were different back then.

“We had no cell phones, no social media,” said mom Kelly.

Although, the building is still the same. “I could probably still get you to all of the classes,” Kelly said with a laugh.

Many families said they moved away for several years, but they came back because this is where they wanted to raise their children.

“It’s just something really special that I can grow up in the same community that my mom did and develop some of the same experiences,” said Elena Ashburn, 18, who is graduating this year alongside her twin sister Hannah.

Mom Leslie is a graduate of the Class of 1984. On their drive to the school for their photos, she shared with her daughters that she was in “Bye Bye Birdie” as a student – the same musical that the school is doing this year.

She’s found other classmates of hers that also have children graduating alongside her girls.

“It’s kind of like a reunion,” Leslie said.

Nathan Blackmer, 18, is a fifth-generation Quaker Valley resident.

His mom, Marna, a graduate of the class of 1990, also ran into former classmates who have children graduating alongside Nathan.

Marna’s dad, Ron Karcher, who graduated in the 1960s, had been looking forward to this project. Unfortunately, he died a month ago and didn’t make the photo session.

There’s a reason why families stay or return to Quaker Valley, Marna said.

“It’s a very close-knit community — a lot of the same families that have been around for generations. I think there’s definitely a reason for that — it’s definitely a combination of this community and this school district,” she said.