The Student News Site of Essex High School

The Hive

The Hive

The Hive

Essex High School Through the Years: The 2000s

At Essex High School, we have eighteen alumni-turned-staff and exactly half of them attended high school after the dawn of the new millennium. In this four part series, participating alumni take us on an eye-opening journey through EHS in the days of brand new flip phones, handmade school floats, the filming of an MTV show, and an extremely competitive environment.

Of the nine interviewees, over half of them talked about the shifting intensity in academics since their respective times as students attending EHS.

Grace Smith

Grace Smith, who graduated in 2010 and currently works as a science teacher as well as the former Varsity Field Hockey coach and former Varsity Lacrosse coach here at EHS, reflected on the attitude of teachers and students when she attended.

“It felt very much like I was walking into an institution where standards had been set high for every student and things had been the same for a very long time,” Smith said. 

Fellow science teacher, Mary Savage, Class of 2009, felt similarly to Smith when asked what she wanted to bring back to EHS from her time as a student.

“There were really high expectations for students,” Savage said. “I think our expectations have fluctuated with the pandemic. Change happens. If I could change one thing about Essex, it would be to continue having really high expectations and guardrails for students.”

Mary Savage with friends

According to administrative assistant Allison Short, Class of 2016, students now have more opportunities to seek help when needed.

“The counseling office offers college/career planning help during FLEX on Fridays,” Short said. “I don’t remember this being an option when I was at EHS as FLEX was very new. I think this is a great resource.”

Allison Short

The intensity of school spirit was also reported to have dwindled according to Keese Lane, Class of 2004, and social studies teacher.

“Essex used to either be the top school in the state academically or it was CVU, and there was that rivalry,” Lane said. “You had that sense of: We do really hard things, and we are the best school in the state. If you go look at the gym, count all the banners from ‘99 to ‘08. There’s a sense that we won field hockey, we won running, we won ‘pick your sport.’ We’re Essex.”

In tandem with a lack of school spirit, faculty commented on a shift in Spirit Week participation and set up. 

Behavioral interventionist, Allison Needler, who graduated in 2007, spoke why she believes less students are involved in Spirit Week.

Allison Needler

“I think there is less participation in the spirit week activities now than there was then,” Allison Needler said. “I think the categories were a little more simple: Decade Day, Vermont Day, Color Day, Comfy Day, Blue and Gold…. Spirit Week has always been about the sports teams, but at EHS theater, art, music are very popular, which could alienate some students from being included.”

Since the 2000’s Essex High School’s demographics and population size have shifted a noticeable amount.

Kristin McNamara graduated from EHS in 2005, back when EHS had considerably more students.

“When I was here, there were almost 1700 students,” Kristin McNamara said. “As crowded as you think the hallways are now, the four way stops and the stairwells, add 450 more people to that. That’s why there was eight minutes between classes because you couldn’t get places.”

Jake Orr, Class of 2010, went into further detail about EHS’s shifting demographics.

“Demographically the school has changed a lot,” Orr said. “Certainly in terms of racial diversity [and] socioeconomic status. Three or four years ago, before COVID, families were still paying for lunch. When I was in high school, maybe like 5% [of students received] free and reduced lunch and pre-COVID it was up to like 25%. IBM was still booming and operating when I was in high school, and a lot of the kids who went here might have had parents who were engineers at IBM.”

Jake Orr

The early 2000s were notoriously a difficult time for LGBTQ+ students, and Lane recalled the casual homophobia he witnessed. 

“There were maybe two girls who were out as gay or bisexual when I went to high school here,” Lane said. “No one was out as transgender. No men were out as gay.You just went through a passing period, you should have heard [the f-slur] at least twice in the hallways. It was synonymous with calling something dumb or stupid. The degree to which you heard casual homophobic remarks here was really something that students here today can’t wrap their head around.”

Essex High School also changed in less substantial ways in regards to technology, Julie Shaw, Class of ‘04, our Family and Consumer Science teacher said.

“There were no Chromebooks, classes had to go to the library computer lab when we all were working on a paper or project,” Shaw said.  “We had cell phones, but not smartphones, and no one took them out. We all talked before class until the teacher told us to listen.” 

Allison Needler, who graduated in 2007, remembered the handheld technological devices students used.

“Cell phones were just emerging on the scene, so that is a huge difference. iPods were the hot new items for listening to music in the halls,” Needler said.

Further, alumni shared their favorite memories from when they were students.

Shockingly, in the early 2000s, Music Television, or MTV, visited our high school and filmed the girls’ ice hockey team for an unreleased reality show called “Ice Queens.” Although the show never saw the light of day, Smith distinctly remembers the invasive filming process. 

“The biggest event that happened while I was here was MTV coming to film,” Smith said. “An MTV show was going to be called Ice Queens, and it was about the girls’ [ice] hockey team….MTV was in our school all day. There were cameras in our faces. They came to all the sporting events…They followed us to team dinners. But partway through filming, our superintendent was like, ‘No, that’s enough.’ It was a huge distraction. They only gathered enough footage to film a pilot. Just recently we watched the pilot, and it’s so fake. I have a friend who was from Westford, and anytime she was on the screen they played country music.It didn’t make it onto TV,and it was kind of a shame because the girls’ [ice] hockey team won the state championship that year.”

Keese Lane

Alyssa Jacobs, who attended EHS in 2005 and currently works as a nurse at EHS, reminisces on the floats students handmade.

“We had homecoming floats that were just my favorite,” Jacobs said. “Every fall each class made a homecoming float.Everybody in the class who ever wanted to partake came together and built it over a couple of weekends. And then we used to parade it from where Walgreens used to be to Quality Bake Shop [and] down Five Corners.”

Shaw misses the memories she created with her friends in the cafeteria and library as well as the nostalgic food she once enjoyed.

Julie Shaw

“As you get older there’s rarely a time when so many friends can just sit around and talk, and back then we got to see each other every day,” Shaw said. “Also the cafeteria had cheese filled pretzels that were so delicious, but I can’t believe now that I used to eat them all the time.  Doubt it was real cheese.”

After they left high school, all the interviewees remarked they felt prepared due to their experience at Essex High School. Most did not believe they would return to EHS or even become a teacher in the first place, but all their paths led back to the same place.

McNamara commented on wanting to explore new parts of the United States after graduating from high school, college, and graduate school before finding her way back.

“I wanted out because I wanted to see the rest of the world,” McNamara said. “I went really far away for college and then even further away for grad school, but what going away made me realize was how great it was here.”

Kristin McNamara

Shaw, like many of the alumni interviewed, did not have plans of returning to EHS.

“It’s a great school, but I felt weird coming back and working with people who were once my teachers,” Shaw said. “However it’s been great, and I think it says a lot about our school that so many students end up working here. Honestly I don’t know where I’d be, but we’re very lucky at EHS to have one of the last Family and Consumer Science programs in Chittenden County.”

Jacobs reflected on the multigenerational experience she has had with EHS and her dedication to our school. 

Alyssa Jacobs

“I’m very loyal and I have a lot of pride in working here,” Jacobs said. “I live here as well. I live in this district. My mom and my husband’s parents went here. [Our] girls will be third generation Hornets. I have a lot of pride in this school and want to make it the best it can be.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hive
Our Goal

Your donation will support the student journalists of Essex High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributor
Kaitlyn Corbin, Staff Writer
Kaitlyn Corbin is an 11th grader and staff writer for The Hive. She is involved in Student Government, Scholar’s Bowl, STEM Academy, National Honors Society, the Varsity Field Hockey team, and the Varsity Tennis team here at EHS. In her free time she enjoys crocheting and skiing. You can contact her at [email protected].
Donate to The Hive
Our Goal

Comments (0)

All The Hive Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *