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Becoming a Highlander...

On September 9, 1968, the first Highlanders entered Hazen. Unfortunately, the building was far from complete. Rooms were unfinished, wiring hung from the ceiling, the roof leaked, and construction materials lined the hallways during the first months. Long-time PE teacher Carol West commented, that to say Hazen was incomplete was “an understatement”.

The building was not complete

Students in the hall

Students sit in an unfinished room without chairs and desks. The floor is covered in plastic and the wall in back opens to the hallway!

For example, the gym was not done so teachers had to make do with whatever space they could find. Students bowled in the locker rooms, ping-pong tables were set up in the music wing, and a trampoline was in the cafeteria. One entire wing of the building was not complete (that space has since functioned as the Junior parking lot), classrooms were missing doors, the excavation for the auditorium hadn’t been started (and wouldn’t for another 30 years), and the pool was a giant hole. Even though the building was not complete, textbooks for some subjects were back-ordered, and the furniture had not arrived, staff found innovative ways to make the beginning of the year meaningful. This was not easy since the school day ended at noon for several months so that construction could be completed.

The opening of Hazen meant that some students (estimated at nearly half of the 9th, 10th and 11th graders attending in 1968) did not want to be at Hazen. This was because Renton High School, often referred to as ‘Renton University’, was THE school in the region. Many new Highlanders had grand-parents, parents, and siblings who attended RHS – and they had expected to carry on the family tradition. Some families had moved to the Renton area specifically so their children could attend RHS.

Student leadership and staff came together to create a sense of community, a place to belong. In an effort to pull everyone together, pep assemblies were held often. Students and staff alike attended and began forging their identity as Highlanders. At the assemblies, everyone learned both the Fight Song and the Alma Mater, introductions were made so that students knew which staff member to contact for their needs, and the initiation of Highlander traditions - the cheerleaders inserted a bit of Highland fling into their routines - began to take hold