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Van Allen Marks 150th
Established in 1861, Van Allen Elementary School has reached 150 years. Current students and staff, along with pasty attendees and staff members joined in the celebration on Wednesday, May 16 to officially mark the school's century and a half.

"My kids went here and I'm an aide here," said Maria Goncalves, as she and fellow Van Allen aide Ramona Guzman pored over the photos albums and yearbooks chronicling the history of the rural school.

Guzman has been an aide there for 16 years, and spent many years in teacher Sofia Hudson's class. Hudson, now retired, along with fellow retiree Rosemary Scholz, coordinated the displays of memorabilia that lined the multi-purpose room and got people talking about the past.

"We flourished in a very secure school and community," said Diane Gillispie Alcorn, a former Van Allen student who now serves on the Escalon Unified School District Board. "The staff has changed ... but the basic culture of Van Allen hasn't."

Van Allen Principal Scott Ferreira said his own mother was a student at Van Allen from first through eighth grades, so his family is connected to the rural school as well.

The crowd gathered for a video presentation, set to music, and listened to guest speakers including Alcorn. Also taking the podium was Marlin Moreno, who was a student teacher at Van Allen in 1978.

"Parents were key to our success," he said of the supportive extended family. "We had spaghetti fields, field trips ... I never really felt it was a job."

Moreno said the enthusiasm and dedication of the parents and staff has served Van Allen students well over the years.

"The tradition of excellence and parent involvement will continue," he said.

Judy Wentworth was a teacher at Van Allen from 1975 to 1985 and served as principal from 1986 to 1993.

She remembered the old Four Tree School and how the district changed over the years, with the opening of El Portal and the closure of some rural campuses. Van Allen remained, but also went through some changes, after once having been a kindergarten through eighth grade school, now a kindergarten through fifth grade site.

"It's a place to enter and feel safe," Wentworth told the crowd. "To be cared about and taught. You are all very lucky to have your students at Van Allen."

In addition to the ceremony, displays and birthday cake, the school also hosted its Open House and a Farmers Market the same evening.

John Venturella, who now lives on Murphy Road, was an eighth grade graduate from Van Allen in 1949.

"It was a good place," he said. "Now my grandson goes to school here."

Several additions have been made to the campus, the most recent in 2006, which included the multi-purpose room where the celebration was staged.

Wentworth reiterated the general feeling of the night as she summed up her remarks.

"It takes a village to raise a child, it is said, and Van Allen is a very special village."