The Class of 1978 Reflects on Academy 40 Years Later

October 23, 2017


Photo Credit: Lauren Pieper/Achona Online

“Academy is unique because of the sisterhood and special bonds among the women who attend the Academy,” Michelle Garcia Gilbert (’78) said.

The Academy Class of 1978 is currently planning their 40 year reunion, which will take place in the summer of 2018. The planning committee consists of Sandy Meyer Pieper, Jennifer Poe Wolff, Anne Diaz Jones, Laura Roebuck-Day, Nancye Dozier Hatcher, Michelle Garcia Gilbert , Karen Ficarreta Palori, Karen Ferreri, Laura Clark Lachapelle, and Robin Qualey.

Planning this reunion has brought back fond memories for all involved.

Hatcher said, “I’ve been involved in the planning of all our reunions; it’s fun. The planning meetings are a great excuse to get together with other local classmates that I don’t get to see often, even though most of us live in Tampa. I wouldn’t say it’s stressful, we just want to plan something that everyone will want to attend and celebrate what brought us all together in the first place, AHN.”


Photo Credit: Sandy Meyer Pieper (used with permission)
Roebuck-Day said, “A reunion is a time to not only celebrate our commonality. It is, and must be, a time when we embrace each and every difference. It is the differences that have taken the inner bright lights to so many dark places, where these wondrous, remarkable women have made such a valuable difference in the world. I am so honored to be part of this class. I am truly blessed, whether in small or great ways, by every single person.”

There have been a lot of changes to AHN over the course of 40 years, such as technology being highly incorporated into the classroom, new uniforms, air conditioning, and even students being allowed on the fourth floor.

“The first time I went on the fourth floor was when I was in second grade. At that time, AHN had boarders who lived on the third and fourth floors.  My sister and I spent a week as boarders while my parents went on a business trip,” said Jones.

Photo Credit: Lauren Pieper/Achona Online
“I hope forty years from now people remember the impact we made and the legacy we left behind,” said Caitlyn Helms (’18).

Gilbert sent all five of her daughters to AHN, and saw that the school both has stayed the same, but progressed in various ways. She watched the Academy change throughout the years since her daughters are all of different ages, but recognizes that the school is still very much rooted in its original foundation which sets it apart from other educational facilities.

“I think my daughters had very similar experiences that I had with a close knit student body and great friends who are like sisters. Also, they had different experiences with expansion of school campus, more technology, and sophisticated physical environment; such as the art studio, campus hall, recent expansion,” said Gilbert.

The commonalty of sisterhood is still highly relevant in today’s classes at the Academy, and aids the students in their learning experience due to each girl helping another discover something about herself.

Mia Cardoso (‘18) says, “My sisters have helped me to come out of my shell and learn how to work better and with different kinds of people. I would never have learned these important skills from anyone else.”

In the Heritage Center there is a space dedicated to the class of 1978. It has a stained glass window dedicated to the class, and has the uniform the girls wore to school; which is very different from the one that is worn today.

Jules LaVoy (‘18) is a fan of the current AHN uniform and said, “It’s so nice to not have to wake up and worry about what to wear. Laundry is the easiest thing in the world, and it is super comfortable. Also, I love that we all match.”


Photo Credit: Lauren Pieper/Achona Online
“The uniforms were a thick polyester polo style dress, navy or light blue.  I don’t think they really bothered me back then. Everyone was wearing the same thing so the focus was not on the uniforms, which was a good thing,” said Nancye Hatcher (’78).

Even though there has been many changes since the late 70s, the fundamental basis of what the Academy stands for is still instilled within the institution today.

One favorite tradition at the Academy from then and now is Mini Course Week.

I loved mini course week. Once I did a French and Spanish cooking class. I still use the quiche recipe. It released a passion for cooking and entertaining within me that I truly enjoy to this day,” said Roebuck-Day.

Although many girls do stay and take unique classes during the week, an addition to Mini Course Week now is that students are able to participate in mission trips.

Alisha Sanchez (’18) said, “I went to Ruskin last year. I thought it was a really enriching experience because it helped me gain a new perspective on life. It’s definitely a good thing the Academy decided to implement mission trips into mini course week; especially since we have international mission trips which allow for students to bond with their classmates, and experience different cultures. It also helps us to develop our faith.”

The one thing that has never changed is that the Academy is a unique high school that creates strong and successful young women, and gives its students everlasting friendships that they will carry with them through life.


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