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Ventura County

Santa Clara School Marks 100 Years

Education: Students past and present take part in the centennial celebration at the Oxnard campus.


Santa Clara Elementary School turned back the clock Tuesday to mark 100 years of history, tradition and education.

To celebrate the Oxnard school's centennial, seventh-graders Denise Venegas and Samantha Ciaravino, both 12, dressed in long, black frocks--like the Catholic nuns used to wear--to represent the school's founders.

Posters representing each decade of the school's existence lined the walls of the auditorium. Each of the school's grades studied a period of history to prepare for the celebration, attended by more than 600 parents, teachers and current and former students.

"You are blessed by all the people who have gone before you," said Bishop Thomas Curry, who celebrated a Mass at Santa Clara Church in honor of the private Catholic school, which teaches kindergarten through eighth grade.

School Is County's Third-Oldest

Santa Clara is the third-oldest school in Ventura County, behind 105-year-old Santa Clara School, known as the Little Red Schoolhouse, near Santa Paula; and Santa Paula High School, which is 110 years old.

During Tuesday's Mass, Santa Clara's 302 students dressed in blue and gold--the school's colors--filled the pews. Afterward, Principal Dotty Massa received a special papal blessing for the school from Pope John Paul II.

"I was shocked," Massa said. "I did not have a clue. . . . It's just unbelievable."

Massa, who has worked at Santa Clara Elementary for 26 years, began there as a first-grade teacher.

"My first-graders are parents at the school," she said.

After the Mass, altar girls and boys led a procession across the street, where Curry blessed the school.

The oldest former student taking part in the ceremony was Addie Braden, 85, who attended from 1921 to 1934.

"I think it was wonderful," Braden said of her education. "In that time we had all sisters teaching."

Former student Marilyn Hansen, 77, noted the dedication of the nuns who taught at the school. The students always seemed to be the focus of their lives, she said.

While celebrating its past, the school was looking to the future.

Wish List Posted in Auditorium

A wish list hung in the auditorium that included items such as a seismic retrofit, plumbing repairs and an electrical upgrade.

During the Mass, the bishop told the congregation that its 100 years of sacrifice and dedication would continue into the future.

"Tradition is a living thing," he said. "It grows as a body grows. It grows as a person grows. It grows as a community grows."

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