Celebrating 25 Years - The First Graduating Class of Southridge
Marissa May

This past weekend, Southridge held the 25-year reunion of our inaugural graduating class, the Class of 1999. This milestone not only marks a significant passage of time but also serves as a moment of reflection and celebration for those students who laid the foundation for Southridge's rich legacy.

Has it really been 25 years?

For the Class of 1999, the realization that it's been a quarter of a century since their graduation from Southridge is surreal. The feelings of nostalgia, memories from their first days on campus, and the connections of their tight-knit class of only 14 students have ignited a wave of emotions for the 1999 alumni.

Why Southridge?

In 1995 Southridge opened and the “senior” students at the school were only in ninth grade. “I had originally been happy with the school I was in for Grade 8, but when I met Alan Brown and he said, "Just give us a year, if you don’t like it, you can always go back, but you’ll be a senior for 4 years!", I thought well that sounds neat. And he [Alan Brown] said, "You’ll have a chance to shape the future of this institution." And I thought you know what, let’s give it a shot and it was a lot of fun,” shares Chris Parsons.

Many of those first senior students came from large public schools and were apprehensive about the change in learning environment. “I can’t remember if I was happy or grumpy about the
decision to start at Southridge, but it ended up working out for the best,” says Andrew Matheson.

Jason Tobias was apprehensive as well, but shares that when he met Mr. Brown, “I loved the guy instantly, and I was like yeah, this is for me, I want to go to this school. That’s how it started.” These sentiments show just how special Southridge was even before the school opened.

First Days at Southridge

When Southridge opened in 1995, the campus we know today had yet to be opened, so the first classes were held in a local church. The eldest class had a birds-eye view of all the other classes from the church attic, which was coined the name “The Crow’s Nest.”

“We were there for a couple of months, and then we did the Great Trek so we walked from the church to the new school. It’s funny looking back at these things we did that are now quite symbolic. Even though we were such a small school, they made sure we did all these little things that made it feel special,” says Kathy Ager.

Kathryn Willms also remembers classes in the church, “I remember when we got to the first year, in this little, tiny room (the Crow’s Nest) and it was so satisfying, you could look down over all the tiny partitions and see my siblings in their separate 'classrooms' and we could see the whole school in front us.” Kathryn remembers the Great Trek fondly, “Mr. Brown had this real sense of ritual, and it was important to be really intentional around these sorts of moments,” she says.

Finally, on Campus!

Following the Great Trek, students excitedly arrived on the Southridge campus, which had a temporary structure for classes. “Thinking back it’s really amazing the growth that happened in those four years. I think about being in the “Crow’s Nest” in the church in South Surrey for Grade 9, and then we graduated in the beautiful Senior School that was built in our final year. To see what was accomplished by a dedicated group of teachers, parents, and students in only four years is pretty crazy. It’s a testament to what can be accomplished by a dedicated group of people. Even since I’ve left, it’s incredible the growth that continues to happen,” says Chris Parsons.

Grand Opening

After enduring the cramped quarters in temporary classrooms, our Class of 1999 burst with excitement as they walked into their new school structure for their Grade 12 year. “In our last year, Mr. Brown promised they’d have the high school ready for us, and it was ready,” shares John Stech. “When we got to the Senior School we were all like, “Oh my gosh, this is just amazing – look at all this cool stuff – we have windows!” recalls Jason Tobias.

Small Class – Seniors for 4 Years

The small class, comprised of only 14 students, shared an incredibly tight bond that stemmed from their unique circumstances. Kathy Ager reminisced about the novelty of always being the

eldest. “It was really funny being the oldest class all the time – we were always the ones doing things first. It was a super unique experience, especially since in high school you’d normally be surrounded by older kids, and would feel kind of 'small', but we got to feel important the whole time which was cool.”

John Stech reflected on the small class size, emphasizing the tight-knit dynamic and the leadership opportunities it presented.

“It provided a lot of opportunity for leadership skills. I coached the Grade 4 and 7 basketball teams,” he shares.

“It imparted a bit of a sense of responsibility and leadership among my grad class, being the most senior students for four years, and it solidified a sense of community because we were told that how we participated in the school mattered," echoes Kathryn Willms.

Despite initial differences, the class quickly unified, forming deep connections that endured beyond graduation. Andrew Matheson highlighted the lasting friendships forged through shared experiences, “Those friendships were shaped because we spent so much time together, and had every class together; we were a tight knit group,” he says.

“Our experience was very unique, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. The people that were in our group were from diverse backgrounds, and had different interests, but it just really worked in my opinion,” shares Chris Parsons.

“There were so few of us and we knew each other so well. Most of us participated in sports, theatre, music, and extracurriculars – it was an intense time. It was funny, I was ready to leave, because I needed a break from people knowing me that well. But also, you miss that, because it was so intimate and we grew up together during this really formative time of life,” says Kathryn Willms. “I will say that’s pretty special though, and never again in my life have I had those type of intense relationships with people. It was a bit like a family, in that we couldn’t escape each other, but that was in some ways a good thing because it made our relationships evolve. We could disagree, but then ultimately, we would have these special, lovely moments of connection, so that was an amazing thing. I don’t think many people go through that.”


When asked about their favourite Southridge memories, the Class of 1999 students agree that the unforgettable school trips they took together are the ones they'll never forget.

“From Strathcona, to a road trip in the interior of BC with Mr. Bendl, or Montreal with Ms. Plageman - it was such a great time to bond with classmates and teachers and it has left me with fond memories,” shares Daljeet Hair.

Many of our 1999 alumni also credit their love of the outdoors now, to the trips they took during their time at Southridge. “I remember building the snow caves in Manning Park and sleeping in them – I still don’t know anyone else that’s done that. I remember going canoeing and portaging on those overnight trips – and still to this day that has given me this love of the outdoors and an appreciation for that, so now even with my own family, I spend a lot of time hiking, doing outdoor sports, and other activities because of the foundation that was built here,” shares Chris Parsons.

Each of these trips fostered lasting friendships and ignited a passion for discovery. “We had some amazing trips, like Strathcona, where we all divided up into different groups; I was on the kayaking crew and I remember sitting out on that trip with people from my grad class and the Grade 11 class, and we were sitting out under the stars and feeling like WOW we were somewhere completely magical,” says Kathryn Willms.

These alumni fondly recall the exhilaration of stepping outside the classroom walls and into the wider world, where every destination became a classroom and every experience a lesson. Indeed, the school trips had not only enriched their education but had also forged bonds that have lasted much longer than their time at Southridge.

Being the First Graduating Class

The experiences, challenges, and triumphs that our first graduating class paved the way for the years to come.

“We were at the first of so many things, I remember the school song (and the actions), the logo, and ‘Omnis Anima Volet’ all started while I was there,” shares Kathryn Willms.
Our 1999 alumni took ownership and pride in being the Southridge trailblazers. “We were really able to say what we thought the school should be and got to introduce some traditions. If not for that rag-tag crew we had, Southridge may not have some of the traditions it has today,” says Chris Parsons.

“The Christmas Hampers, Country Fair, and concerts are activities we were involved in and now those traditions have lasted over 25 years, so it’s neat to see what we started that long ago continues to this day. The parents and students all had the same mentality of creating this incredible community, it’s tough to talk about being the first class and what it means, because it was such a unique experience and a unique group of people from parents to students…you had to be there,” shares Chris Parsons.

Staying Connected 

Despite the passage of time, busy schedules, and the miles between them, the bond forged during their time at Southridge remains unbreakable for many alumni of the Class of 1999. After leaving Southridge they have tried to remain connected, both to one another and to the Southridge community. Some of our 1999 alumni have served time on the Alumni Executive Board of Directors, participated in the ASK Mentorship program, and attended various events. Kathy Ager, who is the Class Representative for their graduating class, recently planned their 25-year reunion, which entailed a dinner downtown with ten of the fourteen graduates in attendance. Some of them flew in from across Canada to attend the special evening allowing the group to reflect, reminisce, and reconnect together.

The Transformative Power of the Southridge Community 

As the Class of 2024 prepares to graduate, these reflections serve as a testament to the transformative power of the Southridge community and the enduring bonds that are created on campus. These days, walking around campus and looking at how much has changed in the past 25 years is incredible, but what is equally incredible is the mark our inaugural graduating Class of 1999 left on Southridge after all these years.

Contributed by Marissa May, Alumni Relations Coordinator  
Adapted from Spirit Magazine - Spring 2024