Valley Stream Central High School first opened its doors in September 1929 with an enrollment of nearly 300 students. Since then, thousands of teenagers have walked through its hallways and graduated from Valley Stream’s first high school.
On a recent trip to Washington D.C., Central students paid tribute to the class of 1931 by recreating a picture that was taken outside of Mount Vernon, President George Washington’s former home, more than 80 years ago.
The original photograph found its way to Central three years ago when the grandson of a member of the class of 1931, while cleaning out his recently deceased grandfather’s attic, came across it. The grandson then sent the picture to Central Principal Dr. Joseph Pompilio.
“All the students looked older than they were,” Pompilio said of the photo. “They looked like they were in their 30s and 40s instead of 18.” He noted that the photo was kept in excellent condition.
The photo was then displayed in Central for all to see and it caught the eye of art teacher Mario Bakolov.
Each year, students in Jack Gorman’s Advanced Placement U.S. Government classes take a trip to Washington D.C. to gain a better understanding of the nation’s history. Bakolov, who has been a teacher at Central for nine years, has been a chaperone on the trip for the last five years.
In planning this year’s trip, it was decided that the group would tour Mount Vernon, located a few miles outside the nation’s capital in Virginia. Bakolov realized the class of 1931’s photo was taken on the Mount Vernon premises and thought it would be fun to recreate the image with the class of 2013.
Bakolov first brought the idea to Gorman and then to Pompilio; both were quickly on board with the idea. “I really like traditions,” Bakolov said, “and to have this thing that happened more than 80 years ago and to be able to be at the same spot, doing the same things with a graduating class was a cool piece of history, especially considering how long the school’s been around.”
The approximately 80 students who went on the trip, which included stops at the Capitol building, Supreme Court and various monuments, were not told they would be recreating the photo until Bakolov began lining them up outside Mount Vernon. However, once they were told, Bakolov said, their faces lit up as they realized they were going to be a part of something historic.
When the staff and students returned to Central, the two photos were placed together to compare of the two classes. “It was very impressive to see the contrast and how life has changed for all of us,” Pompilio said.
Superintendent Dr. Bill Heidenreich said he enjoyed looking “at the style of dress from both the students and adults in 1931,” and comparing that “to the class of 2013.” He added that it was a great idea of Bakolov’s to take the picture.
At the Dec. 11 Board of Education meeting, student representatives from each of the district’s four schools presented the board with gifts to show their appreciation. Central High senior Rida Javaid unveiled the two contrasting photos, along with Bakolov, to the board.
“This picture connects the support and dedication of this current Board of Education,” Javaid said, “with the support that the Board of Education back in 1931 gave.”