Several generations of Our Lady of Guadalupe School graduates celebrated the school’s 100th anniversary with a Union Station gala Saturday night.
About 300 alumni and guests admired archival class photos and got a chance to order a centennial memory book. Some described how the school helped establish and maintain the Mexican-American community of Kansas City.
“It was a small, tight-knit community, and the school taught us all how to love and respect one another,” said Manuel Martinez, one of 12 siblings who attended the school, finishing in 1952.
Among the school’s first students were the children of the early 20th century Mexican immigrants who came to Kansas City to work on its railroads or inside its packing houses, said Steve Belen, who completed the eighth grade in 1981.
The school has served as a gateway for students who have gone on to assume leadership roles in the larger Kansas City community.
“Our teachers encouraged us to take our rightful place,” Belen said.
In turn, those same graduates help maintain the contemporary Kansas City Hispanic community, others said.
“The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Greater Kansas City would not exist without the alumni of Our Lady of Guadalupe School,” said Carlos Gomez, that organization’s president.
Not only did the graduates value the religious instruction they found at the school, but today they also appreciate the sense of community observed by its graduates.
“Just about everyone I knew on the West Side went there,” said David Valdivia, who was the last of eight siblings to attend the school when he completed eighth grade in 1972.
“Now I’m 58 years old and I’m still friends with the classmates I first met in kindergarten.”
Graduates chose to celebrate the school’s centennial on the Dec. 12 feast day for Our Lady of Guadalupe, considered the patron saint of Mexico.
According to Catholic teaching, the day observes the occasion in 1531 when a woman appeared to a poor Aztec Indian near Mexico City, identifying herself as the Virgin Mary.
Today a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe stands inside the entrance to the school at 2310 Madison Ave. Among the several guests who on Saturday night carried the statue into Union Station’s north hall was Sue Scalard, the school’s principal.
Today the school, operated by the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, has 69 students enrolled from kindergarten through sixth grade, Scalard said.
“Some of the current students have parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents who attended,” Scalard said. “It’s a generational school.”