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Students' grand finale

'Best-kept secret' of education says farewell as school closes. Students are putting on one more benefit performance.

May 21, 2010|By Tom Ragan

You're looking at the last graduating class of Orange Coast Middle College High School. All 33 of them.

They'll walk on June 2 and collect their high school diplomas and college credits, then head out to their respective colleges and universities.

The Newport-Mesa Unified School District had to eliminate the specialized high school, which was founded in 1996 to save roughly $800,000 amid state cutbacks. The curriculum operates outside of the box of traditional high school, allowing juniors and seniors to obtain college credits while forgoing the "normal" high school experience, something one student summed up as "full of cliques and drama."

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To be sure, however, the small group of graduates has created a unique experience of their own, something they were hoping to pass down to younger siblings and younger generations.

"We had a great thing going," said Aaron Ludlow, 18, as he and classmates stood beneath a tree on the Orange Coast College campus, the site of the high school.

What's amazing, the students concurred, is how many of their peers in mainstream high schools misconstrue the curriculum. Many see them, they said, either as "rejects" or "weird" when the reality is the high school "was one of the best-kept secrets."

At the helm for most of the years was Principal Bob Manney. At 6 foot 7, he is an inch taller than Michael Jordan. His reputation for compassion and fondness for his students always seem to precede him well before he's seen coming down corridors — ducking here and there, so as to not hit his head.

"It's going to be a real shame having to leave this place," said Manney, 60, a prostate cancer survivor who has managed to survive the tough times by keeping his spirits high.

But with the high school on the cusp of elimination, students and Manney fear that the time has come to do something about keeping the spirit of the school alive. There is, after all a history to this place. There are alumni who have become successful.

To that end, a benefit will be held for Relay for Life, an American Cancer Society program, which will take place from 10 a.m. Saturday to 10 a.m. Sunday at OCC.

But this benefit in particular, a musical show, will take place inside the Loats Theatre at the Newport Beach Harbor High School.

Alumni from Orange Coast Middle College High School will gather to perform music, in what is being dubbed "Music for Life." The show begins at 7 tonight at 600 Irvine Ave. Tickets are $10 at the door.

Some of the musicians include Sam Smith, a senior who will play folk pop rock on her acoustic guitar and Sergio Garcia, a 22-year-old alumnus who was once the lead singer of Paper Thin Walls, a relatively successful band.

"We're going to have such a wide variety of music," Smith said. "We're even going to have a ragtime pianist on hand."

If all goes well, and 500 people show up and fill the theater, the students are hoping to make the Relay for Life the basis for future reunions, they said.

If You Go

Who: Orange Coast Middle College High School students and alumni

What: "Music for Life"

Why: Benefits Relay for Life

When: 7 tonight

Where: Loats Theatre, Newport Beach Harbor High School, 600 Irvine Ave.

Cost: $10 at the door

Information: (949) 413-3914

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