Three E.L. Crossley scholarships awarded to mark 25th anniversary of graduating class

“The Class of ’96,” those E.L. Crossley students who graduated from the Pelham high school in 1996, have provided three $1000 scholarships to deserving students at Crossley’s 2021 virtual graduation ceremony, held last Thursday, June 24.

The idea of creating something special came to Debb Hoffman— Debb Crowther, back in ’96—during reflection on the upcoming 25th anniversary of her graduation. She wondered, “Would there be interest [among her previous classmates] to honour the 25 years and also support one of the graduates this year?”

Hoffman, now living in Guelph, envisioned a one-time, one- scholarship initiative to be presented by a local member of the class of ’96. She contacted previous classmates via a little-used Facebook page created years ago to keep the class connected. The response was enthusiastic, both to assist in fundraising and renew past acquaintances. Sue Bell, now in United States, and Ryan Huxley jumped in to form a committee of three.

Huxley lives locally and is employed by the DSBN, so he became the liaison with current Crossley staff and teachers who have been most helpful in making the 2021 scholarships happen. A GoFundMe page was established, and more than 30 classmates responded with donations totaling over $3000.

Hoffman says re-engaging classmates was fun. Typical “Wow, 25 years. Really? I feel old,” Facebook comments were balanced with generous contributions.

The disciplines in which the awards were offered were influenced by the committee.

The 1996 Alumni Arts Award went to Thomas Calaguiro who embodies the same free spirit as dawn e crysler, an unforgettable friend to those in the class of ’96. She extended her compassion, creativity and contagiously fun manner to the whole student body, and later the Niagara arts community and beyond.

The 1996 Alumni Skilled Trade Award, went to Colton Sawatzky, who has shown dedication, determination, and a passion for the field of technology, a natural category for Huxley, a technology teacher himself, and the committee.

The 1996 Alumni Health Science Award commends this year’s graduates on completing their high school studies during a difficult global pandemic while recognizing the nurses, doctors and care givers who risked their lives during Covid by presenting a scholarship to Molly Hildebrandt, who intends to enter the medical field.

In each case, Crossley teachers and staff selected the recipients from a group of deserving students.

“We were really close as a class,” said Huxley. “A lot of us have grown apart, and haven’t spoken in many years, but whenever we do come across one another, it’s like nothing has changed. It’s a wonderful feeling, it really is a special class. Being able to give back the way we have has been important to us. The community was helpful to us in similar ways when we were that age, so it’s just a great experience and really rewarding for us.”

With a gentle prod to the class of ‘97, Hoffman added, “It would be nice to encourage the next year’s class to consider something like this. I would love to see it turned into a tradition of some sort.”