October 25, 2014

Elyria
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Former West students remember the senior class that wasn’t

ELYRIA — As far as class reunions go, the group of 20-somethings that call themselves the “Elyria West Class of 1997” are a positively elusive lot. Like phantoms in the opera house or albino alligators in the Florida Everglades, they’re virtually impossible to track down.

Consider this: The group — perhaps 120 or so students — would have graduated from Elyria West in 1997, had the school not closed in 1996, their junior year.

SHAWN FOUCHER / CHRONICLE
Members of the Elyria West “Class of 1997” (from left) are Jocelyn Jackson, 28, Makia Calhoun, 28, Helen Santo-Domingo, 28, Yolanda Hammonds, 28, Bonnie Carsons, 28, Brandon Maben, 29, Courtney Warner, 28, Dominique Bohannon, 28, and Dax Lago, 29. Not pictured is Nick Bowers.

Their senior year, the former Elyria West classmates found themselves scattered about, spending 12th grade at other high schools: Elyria, Avon, Clearview, Brookside, South-view, to name a few.

But make no mistake about it: Some of the would-be West graduates still call themselves the “Elyria West Class of 1997.”

About a dozen of those folks gathered at The Cabana bar in Elyria late Saturday, celebrating what they figured was their 10-year class reunion. 

“I don’t care where we all went to school our senior year,” said Courtney Warner, 28, who spent three years at Elyria West before spending her senior year in Avon. “I remember all these people as being part of my high school experience.”

Warner and Elyria West classmate Makia Calhoun, 28, spearheaded the effort to gather their Elyria West comrades for the pseudo-reunion. Less than a tenth of the 120 or more people who can legitimately claim the “Elyria West class of ’97” moniker had shown up at the Elyria bar by 9 p.m., but those who had were in high spirits.

The group ran through their histories over the past decade, explaining how they’d become teachers, accountants, nurses, hospitality managers and parents. 

Nick Bowers, 28, said he decided to stay in Elyria after graduating from Bowling Green State University because the city voted to build a new high school that his 4-year-old daughter can attend in about a decade.

“I’m happy for the city,” Bowers said, shouting over the boisterous voices of his sort-of classmates. “I loved Elyria High when I went there my senior year, and I wouldn’t give it up for anything. But I have a lot of memories at Elyria West — I met a lot of good people there.”

The Elyria West ’97 group said tracking down their former classmates over the past few months has proven to be a formidable task, since Elyria school officials told them they couldn’t locate records on the former students.

The group reverted to old-fashioned networking and word-of-mouth to contact their old classmates, as well as some Internet postings and newspaper and radio ads.

Warner, Bowers, Calhoun and the others were giddy just to see a handful of their old friends.

“It would be nice to see Elyria West open just so we can all go back to where we came from,” said Jocelyn Jackson, 28, who attended the reunion. “It’s not easy to regroup since we all went to separate schools (our senior year). I wish we all had that time to walk down the aisle and graduate together.”

As they found on Saturday, they could still celebrate together.
Contact Shawn Foucher at 329-7197 or sfoucher@chroniclet.com.