“That was a dream, basically, to go back to Abby (Collegiate) and be a teacher and coach, but I never thought that was possible. It was beyond my dreams,” Jinder Sarowa says.
A basketball player at Abbotsford Senior Secondary in the 1980s, he was determined to give back to his old high school upon graduating. He eventually returned to work as a teacher and coach for nine years before moving into administration.
Now a principal at Robert Bateman Secondary, Sarowa says he’s not disheartened by the fact his old stomping grounds are set to be bulldozed this fall to make way for a new building.
He still has one last chance to roam the halls that were built in 1955 as the aging high school prepares to a host a June 2 farewell bash.
The goodbye party includes a “jazz cafe” where past students can come into the cafeteria and check out their old composite grad photos.
That will be followed by a rugby game, an alumni volleyball game, alumni basketball games, a silent auction and even one final dance night.
Unlike those high school formals, the dance fundraiser will offer some alcoholic beverages to those old enough to partake.
Organizer Bruce Campbell says the reason behind this is to draw as many people as possible to the fundraiser to secure as much money as they can for the new school’s projects. This includes an array of trophy cases in the lobby to honour the Abbotsford Collegiate’s history.
“All that culture and heritage that was in the old building – in terms of the photos and the trophies – all of that is coming into the new building,” he says.
Collegiate teacher Paul Peters is also working with the historical society to create a photographic display tracking the school over the past six decades.
Campbell, who previously worked at Abbotsford Collegiate for 16 years as a teacher and a vice-principal, says an estimated 17,000 students graduated from the school. To him, this means a significant number of people in the community still hold a strong connection to Abbotsford Collegiate.
Although not an alumnus, Campbell says he spent the longest period of his professional life walking through Abbotsford Collegiate’s corridors and the impending demolition will definitely affect him.
But he insists he’s not saddened by the building’s fate.
“It’s kind of like having an old rumpus room versus moving in to a new house that’s got all the bells and whistles,” he says, adding it’s not the building that makes the school but the people inside.
“I don’t have any fear of the culture changing or the spirit changing. The staff and the kids are just getting a new building.”
As for Sarowa, he has every intention of giving back to the high school one last time. He’s helping to organize the alumni basketball tournament, which includes five games made of teams representing different decades from the school’s existence.
His reasons for organizing the games are pretty straight forward.
“I found my passion at that school and my passion was basketball,” Sarowa says, recalling the packed gym when the Panthers faced off against MEI. “There’d be lines outside the door of people trying to come in and watch.”
He describes the games he played on the senior team in 1982 as “out of this world,” where the intense atmosphere would give him an incredible boost.
“It was just so overwhelming, just the emotion and the spirit in that gymnasium and the noise level,” he says. “It’s been a big part of my life, just like thousands of other grads who’ve gone through Abby (Collegiate) over the last six or seven decades,”
Sarowa isn’t looking to the June 2 farewell as if it’s a sad event, but as one last opportunity to appreciate the past.
Saturday, June 2
1-4 p.m. Open House
7 p.m. to 1 a.m. Dance with live band
tickets at abbyclosing2012.eventbrite.com