News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

News online for Encinitas, Calif.

North Coast Current

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Academy students shaped the world, but it also shaped them

Editor’s note: This is the first of two stories looking at San Dieguito Academy’s 70th anniversary.

San Dieguito Academy may have been the home of the Mustangs since 1936, but student life at the Encinitas school has changed a lot over the years.

The first students to graduate from SDA, then known as San Dieguito High School, attended classes in a time before the Internet or cell phones were invented. Cheerleaders were called “yell leaders” and female athletes didn’t compete against other schools.

In January, SDA held an anniversary celebration and media center dedication to mark the 70-year milestone. Community members, alumni and current SDA students attended the gathering.

Several alumni said students today have it easier than students in earlier decades.

Class of 1937 alumnus Bob Grice said out of the 30 members of his graduating class, only five drove cars to school and fewer than 10 went on to college.

This year’s senior class, which has 350 students, walks the same halls used by the first graduating class, but one SDA parent said life for today’s students is very different.

Irene Towers, whose 17-year-old son Eric is a graduating senior, said nowadays so many SDA students drive to school that there aren’t enough parking passes to go around.

Towers has another son, 22-year-old Jim, who is a 2002 alumnus. She said technology has made life easier for modern-day students.

“Everybody has cell phones,” she said. “They seem to be on the phone or text messaging each other constantly. We took their cell phones away for Grad Nite last year and it was very stressful for them.”

In addition to the technological improvements, there are other advantages to being a current student at the Academy. The school’s Web site says students at SDA can choose from 18 athletic teams and more than 40 clubs to enhance their high school experience.

Those numbers represent a great deal of growth at SDA since the early years of the school’s history.

The 1938 yearbook lists three sports available to each gender, but alumna Pam Walker said at the time, girls only competed between grade levels.

Despite having less technology and fewer activities than today’s students, Walker, who graduated from SDA in 1955 and is now co-president of the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, said members of the first few graduating classes have made a great impact on the community.

Walker said Grice was a prominent businessman in the area for most of his life, and he served as grand marshal of last year’s Encinitas Christmas Parade.

Dr. Fred Brass, another Class of 1937 alumnus, was a successful family doctor in the area for nearly 40 years, Walker said.

Brass died May 20, 2002.

Walker also mentioned Sid Shaw, a class of 1938 alumnus, as a former student who has made important contributions to the community over the years.

SDA’s notable academic record may mean Encinitas residents can expect as much success from the current group of students as they have from previous classes.

Principal Barbara Gauthier’s Web page says a smaller school means more personal attention from the staff, and the results put SDA “among the highest performing schools in the state.”

Towers said her son is working hard to prepare for college, but he enjoys taking a break from the academic rigors of attending a distinguished school.

She said his favorite part of the day is probably “lunch time, especially the one-hour lunch on Wednesday.”

On the topic of free time, it seems even students who graduated in 1937 have something in common with today’s seniors.

Grice, who turned 87 last month, couldn’t agree more. His favorite part of the school day was “after school was out.”

He also said he liked his teachers, another similarity between current and former students at SDA.

Towers said most of the students get along well with their teachers.

“We have nice students and nice teachers that care about their students,” she said.  “I will sometimes have teachers ask me how my older son is doing in college.”

The public can contact the San Dieguito Heritage Museum at (760) 632-9711 for more information on the history of the Academy and the community.

Grad Nite and commencement activities for the 70th graduating class are set for June.