WOOD RIVER JCT. — Fifty Chariho alumni from the graduating classes of 1961 to 1973 gathered in the Chariho Tech dining room Tuesday. For many, it was a chance to reunite with classmates whom they hadn’t seen in several decades, and there were more than enough hugs and handshakes to go around.
The objective of the event was not to ask for money. The purpose, Chariho Development Officer Katie Kirakosian explained, was to create a network of alumni who could support the school district in several ways, including mentoring.
The purpose was "to see ways that we can bring alumni back, but also the stories that they have to share and the ways they can give back to the district and the ways we can have those important connections,” she said.
On hand to greet the guests were Interim Superintendent of Schools Jane Daly, Chariho Principal and Vice Principal Craig MacKenzie and Andrea Spas, Chariho School Committee member and alumnus William Day and Chariho Tech director Gerald Auth.
Students from Chariho Tech’s hospitality and event-planning program worked with culinary students to decorate the room in a Valentine's Day theme and plan and prepare the lunch. Auth said the event was another opportunity for students to apply their skills and to learn how to work together.
“We’re helping plan the whole event from beginning to end,” he said. “Our hospitality program and our culinary program are working hand-in-hand with our development officer, Katie Kirakosian, to put on this event.”
Many of the alumni also took tours of the school.
“They’re excited to come tour the school,” Auth said. “They wanted to talk to us about different programs and what we’re doing.”
Daly welcomed the guests as they sat down to lunch.
“It’s very fitting that we’re having this luncheon in February near Valentine’s Day. You notice the hearts on the table and the decorations, but clearly, your love for Chariho and also your love for each other," she said. "I see you all got right into talking with your friends and people you’ve kept in touch with, or maybe not, but now people that you’re so happy to see is really shining through.”
MacKenzie described Chariho alumni as among the district’s most valuable resources.
“On a personal level, we’re so excited that you get the opportunity to come together and check in with old friends, reconnect in different ways. Very selfishly, we think about bringing you here as an opportunity to provide our students with a resource going forward,” he said. “So don’t be surprised if we are contacting you and thinking about the ways you can share your wealth of experience and your history in our community with our students."
Former Chariho teachers, like Edgar Brouillard, also attended the lunch.
Brouillard, who taught Latin, French and Spanish for 35 years, sat down next to Day and suddenly realized that he had known him in school.
“I know you,” he said. “You used to hang around with a guy on the baseball team … That’s a long time ago. You wouldn’t remember me, but I remember you.”
Day replied that he did, in fact, remember Brouillard, and the reminiscing began.
Stuart Douglas, a former agriculture teacher and the first director of Chariho Tech, was enjoying lunch with his wife, Marilyn. Douglas lamented the competition that Chariho Tech now faces from other school districts.
“I toured this school today,” he said. “I’m impressed. I think we could expand it and I truly think they should have kept this school as the main technical school."
Sharing a table were alumni Beth Browning, Corilee Greene Small and Evelyn Monk. Browning and Monk graduated in 1969, a year ahead of Small, but the trio has still managed to keep in touch.
“It’s wonderful,” Beth said of the luncheon.
“I think it’s great, Small added. “I see people and I say ‘I think I know them.’ To go up and hug them and say hi, it’s great.”
Daly pronounced the event a hit.
“It’s a huge turnout,” she said. “It’s a wonderful start to building an alumni association at Chariho. They all got right into tables and definitely made connections right away with people that they have graduated with.”
Kirakosian said the district is also hoping to involve alumni in Chariho’s 60th anniversary celebration in 2021.
"I’m thinking of the 60th anniversary, ways to connect, getting feedback from them about what they’d like to have happen, what they’d like to see,” she said. “Really, in a good way, I’m brimming with ideas and the possibilities are endless."