In her last year at River Glen School, Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer fought to keep the school open as it was facing a potential closure.
Now, almost 20 year later, the school’s last bell looms. But not without a day full of reminiscing and looking back on the long history of the school in Red Deer.
River Glen will close at the end of the year. Many of its students and staff will go to the newly built Penhold school. For one last time alumni, current students and staff gathered for homecoming on Saturday.
Veer, valedictorian of her graduating class of 1995, looked back on her high school life at the school she attended for six years.
“I’ve said for many years River Glen was the beginning of my formal political career,” said Veer. “I was ever known to organize some student protests and rallies.”
She fondly remembered organizing a protest to save the school in her last year after two school boards were amalgamated and there was a proposal to shut down River Glen.
“I called a parent meeting in the library and we sent a strong message to our school board,” said Veer. “There is even archival footage of me picketing the school board office alone.
“We were successful in saving River Glen for another 20 years.
Joining Veer was another city mayor who went to River Glen — Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi and his sister, Shaheen Nenshi Nathoo.
They lived near Red Deer from 1979 to 1982. They moved from northeast Calgary after their parents had bought a motel in Gasoline Alley, which is now the Howard Johnson Inn. They lived in a small house attached to the motel.
Every day Nenshi and Nenshi Nathoo were bussed into the city to attend River Glen School.
Nenshi said it was an adjustment from city life and a real introduction into what Alberta was really all about.
“First generation Canadian kids riding the school bus to a school that had an annual rodeo, pretty cool,” said Nenshi.
The first year he became mayor, the sister of a former classmate of Nenshi’s tweeted him a picture from his days at River Glen. In it a young Nenshi wearing a cowboy hat is taking part in the River Glen rodeo. Ever since then he uses it as his Twitter picture during the Calgary Stampede.
“That rodeo was something because most of the kids at the school lived on farms or ranches, had animals and were good at these sports,” said Nenshi. “I had no idea what was going on. The only sport I could participate in was the greased pig race and I refused to do it, I thought is was undignified for the pig.”
He went to the school for Grade 3, 4, 5 and a little of Grade 6, calling it a wonderful place to be where he learned a lot about Alberta.
His older sister Nenshi Nathoo said it was a great place to go to school.
“There was always a great sense of community here,” said Nenshi Nathoo. “Everybody looked after each other, it was like a big family.”