September 12, 1987
It began in Room 1 of Sinsheimer Elementary School over 20 years ago. City editor Mike Stover came up with the idea. Mike had the crazed or inspired idea to follow the same group of kids from kindergarten to graduation in the year 2000.
We were a little mad when USA Today ran with the same idea a few days before us. I never saw it appear again in their paper after that.
The Telegram-Tribune didn’t let go of the idea and would publish hundreds of photos and stories. Around a dozen reporters and about half that number of photographers covered the story over the years.
The concept would give the paper a chance to explore topics that often go untold. They ranged from milestones, to big social trends to every day life stories. The newspaper covered areas from educational trends and coping with divorce to first jobs and learning to drive.
Babcock had computers in her classroom, a new trend in education at the time. One student now works for Google.The same Apple IIg’s sit in the corner of the room, training the next generation of computer users.
The children and parents from the chosen class would generously give the community a window into the issues all families faced at the time.
San Luis Coastal School District arranged for the story to start with Sue Babcock’s class of 26 students. During the the first year a couple of students transferred. Yolanda Solano left and we lost track of her. Hailey Donat joined the class after our first story.
I thought it would be hard to maintain the idea through the 13 years of public education. Can’t say that I could name a single person from my kindergarten class.
I was sure by that time the 26 graduated in 2000 I would have flown off to another town in my Dick Tracey hovercraft. Turns out I stayed and many of them moved on.
When a reunion party was announced in honor of Babcock’s retirement 8 of the original 26 students returned from San Diego in the south to Portland, Oregon in the north. Now adults they are finishing educations, or starting careers but they took time to come back and say hello to their first teacher and catch up with their former classmates.
Sue Babcock is a natural with kindergarten students; she has a cheerful, welcoming command of the classroom, able to keep over 25 students engaged and on task.
As you can see my skills with the 5-year-old set was not as good. Several kids didn’t want to smile and wanted to get back to classroom activities as soon as possible.
As the years went by the kids got less self conscious about having their picture taken.
Five years to the day from when the first story was published I became a father and began to understand the parent’s story better.
Thanks to all the parents, teachers and most of all students who helped share their story with the readers and helped us cover the biggest long-term project I will ever be involved with. Feel free to post a comment or share a memory.
Sally Connell writes the latest installment here.