Since September 7, 1908, St. Anne School at 20th Street and Colorado Avenue has been providing affordable, quality education to working class families. And on Saturday, September 27, the school celebrated its 100-year anniversary with a Fiesta Centenaria that featured Catholic services, remarks by actor Martin Sheen, a historic review by My13 news anchor Lauren Sanchez, the recognition of three honorees for their contributions to the school, and musical performances by three remarkable fourth and fifth graders.
Father Patrick Hawe, then pastor at St. Monica’s, was responsible for the construction of the first building in the area when he, with help of volunteer laborers, built what became a chapel/school combination. According to a caption on the back of an old photo, it was built in five days.
Although the chapel/school had no priest – it was a “mission” of St. Monica’s until 1951 – it had the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, who registered 55 students in September 1908. The Holy Name Sisters ran the school until 1995 when the last of them left. One of the special honorees at the Fiesta Centenaria was Sr. Patricia Cronin, principal at St. Anne from 1980 to 1995. She accepted the recognition on behalf of all the Holy Name Sisters. There are no nuns on the faculty today.
Also honored was for her contributions was Stacy Franklin, whose three children graduated from St. Anne School, and who has remained active at St. Anne’s for almost 50 years in every program from Catholic Youth Organization athletic league to working at the food bank.
Saint Anne School has been able to keep its doors open when many Catholic schools are closing, notwithstanding that it is the only non-public Title 1 School in Santa Monica (meaning that almost 70 percent of the families attending the school live at or below the poverty level).
One of the principal reasons for this is the Saint Anne Support Council, a group founded three years ago by Crossroads School’s Headmaster Roger Weaver and which is comprised of volunteers from many of the neighboring private schools. Originally aiming to raise $60,000 per year for the school, the Support Council has raised nearly $700,000 since its formation to support the ongoing mission of St. Anne School to provide affordable quality education to working class families.
Crossroads School was the third honoree at the 100-year celebration, and Weaver said that Crossroads had developed a different facet of community service called “institutional community service” so that the School could model the values expected of its students.
Among those celebrating the anniversary was Coach Frank Gunga, a 1942 graduate of St. Anne’s who has been coaching at the school since 1947 – and still is. Many “then and now” photographs were mounted around the patio where dinner was served, and one pair showed Coach Gunga calling balls and strikes in 1947 next to one of the coach at school this year.
The evening’s program was completed by three St. Anne students who participate in a newer program that the school offers in conjunction with the Westside Music Foundation. And a very successful program it is, judging by the accomplishments of fourth graders Faith Lily Gerstein on the harp and vocalist Savannah Robinson and fifth grader Jansen Nunez on the piano.
As St. Anne’s Principal Michael Browning said, “St. Anne has been such a part of Santa Monica’s history for 100 years, and we’re excited to bring the community together to celebrate this event”. And they did.