Orange High School’s sesquicentennial celebration unites community 

Photo Courtesy of Joan Purkiss
Orange High School Principal Jason Belton and Heywood Avenue School Principal Faith Alcantara present gifts to 1945 OHS alumnus Jack Nover.

ORANGE, NJ — Orange High School hosted an alumni reception on Friday, Sept. 20, followed by Homecoming on Saturday, Sept. 21, the first of a series of events throughout the year that will celebrate the school’s 150 years of educational service to the community.

Kicking off the weekend, the alumni reception was a formal event in the school’s Jessie Miles Gymnasium, with tickets selling for $50 each.

Heywood Avenue School Principal Faith Alcantara is a 1988 graduate of OHS and a member of the school’s 150th Anniversary Planning Committee. She said she was proud of the school and her community.

“I’m excited and proud that the community came out,” Alcantara told the Record-Transcript in a recent phone interview. “The support demonstrated by the community was overwhelming, because a lot of people were not even aware that the high school was coming up on that milestone. Once they’d realized this was happening, they requested more tickets. I’ve gotten a lot of phone calls and emails regarding tickets, once they’ve sold out online. So much so, we had to sell them at the door the night of the event. People really wanted to be there.”

“The special thing about that night was the fact that we had cadets from Orange High School Naval Jr. ROTC program serve as the escorts. They would escort the alumni to their table at the event and that was awesome to see,” Alcantara continued. “They also provided guard to a table that was set up in honor of Orange High School Alumni who have served in the military. We had military memorabilia on the table and a folded U.S. flag. It was a tribute to those who have served in any branch of the United States military.”

Alumni were able to travel down memory lane at the event and, through the lens of OHS Principal Jason Belton, it was truly a sight to see. He had high praise for the weekend’s event organizers, saying, “The Orange High School 150th Anniversary Committee put together the alumni dinner, the parade and the videos on YouTube promoting the events. They’ve all done a stellar job in doing so.”

“The reception took me to a place where I’ve never experienced before,” he said in an interview with Record-Transcript. “I’ve never seen alumni come back at the rate that I saw Friday night. It was crazy to see it. We celebrated the class of 1965, and that was the same year Malcolm X was assassinated. It was interesting to hear of their experiences in a time such as that. To speak with them about certain things like racism, the cost of food, their style of dress. It was just a good time.

“We walked from Orange High School to OPA (Orange Preparatory Academy), which used to be Orange High School,” he continued. “We escorted alumni through the building. A lot of them began remembering Orange Day from when they were going to school. Orange Day was something like a talent show and that event showcased everyone’s special talent and what the alumni would like to do is to bring Orange Day back.”

The OHS Homecoming Parade on Saturday, Sept 21, stepped off at the high school and traveled along Lincoln Avenue to Main Street with a grandstand at the Elks Lodge at 475 Main St. The parade lineup began at 9 a.m., kicked off at 10 a.m. and concluded at noon, followed by the homecoming game against the Jersey City Ferris Bulldogs at Bell Stadium and a 48-12 win for the OHS Tornadoes.

Orange’s new superintendent of schools, Gerald Fitzhugh II, said he couldn’t be any happier about the weekend’s events.

“The 150th-year celebration of Orange High School was an event that partnered alumni with new members of the community and school district. As the parade commenced on Saturday morning, the community gathering outside of their homes allowed the school community to see the connections to all citizens within the township. I can say we are doing the right thing in the Orange Township Public Schools,” Fitzhugh said in a statement provided to the Record-Transcript.

“With community support, we will continue to impact every student that crosses our threshold. The 150th celebration was the beginning of many things to come, in an effort of aligning all stakeholders as one,” Fitzhugh added.