Niagara Gazette

August 31, 2013

St. Peter's alumni sought for reunion

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — St. Peter's elementary and middle schools in Lewiston want alumni of the building to come home. It's the only way they'll be able to celebrate 60 years properly.

Finding those students from classes long graduated, moved on, with families and families of families, though, has been a bit more of a challenge. They also want to see more response from the more recent success stories.

"Right now, we're getting responses from some of the early alums," said Rita Geiben, one of the reunion celebrations organizers. "They're getting older, so they may appreciate something like this celebration more. But we'd like to see the younger families, too."

Though the event is Saturday, Sept. 7, organizers need to have a final headcount of guests by today. So far, 70 attendees have bought tickets to the celebration, which will begin with a 4 p.m. mass at the attached church building, 140 N. Sixth St., Lewiston. The mass will adjourn to a reception at the Barton Hill Hotel and Spa, 100 Center St.

It's expected to recognize a school which has defied expectations and was recently named the No. 1 middle school in Niagara County, according to Buffalo Business First's 2013 school rankings released in June.

But they're running into a bit of difficulty contacting everyone who should get an invite. Organizers, it turns out, don't have access to what they need all the time.

"Sixty years ago, they didn't keep very good records," Geiben said.

The first classes at St. Peter's kicked off in 1953, when kindergarten and first grade students first walked through the doors. Grades were added as years went by, schooling those children and the ones who followed through eighth grade.

The meager beginnings of the school, under the guidance of the Sisters of St. Francis, quickly spurred more and more interest. Now, in a time with struggling enrollment for private institutions, and catholic schools like Holy Angels Academy in Buffalo closing their doors, the successes of a St. Peter's in the regional marketplace is both a trend they hope continues and a reason to break out the the champagne.

"There's a lot we're proud of within the school," Geiben said. "There's a sense of community within it. It goes from the pastor to our principal, Maureen Ingham, to our parents and students. Everybody knows each other individually. That's what makes this school unique.

"We had very meager beginnings. But we've grown to be successful. We're prospering and we're celebrating our successes."

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.