The land around Laredo Middle School was a crossroads long before the building formally opened to students and staff in 1976.
Located on a key stage stop on the historic Smoky Hill Trail, the site was a meeting ground for the pioneers, traders and prospectors looking to make their fortunes in the mid-19th century. Moreover, the land in what is now southwestern Aurora was a longtime crossroads for Colorado's Native American tribes.
In that context, Laredo's 40 years of history may seem like a mere blink of the eye in a wider context. But for the staff, students and administrators who headed to the relatively undeveloped wilds of Aurora in the mid-1970s to build a new learning community, four decades is a long time.
Those years represent the birth and growth of more than an anonymous middle school. For those who were there for the dedication ceremony on Jan. 7, 1976 and for those who came into the fold much later, Laredo represents community in the purest sense of the word.
"I think one term that I heard right away when I started here as principal was people referring to the Laredo family, the community that we have here," said Edie Alvarez, who took on the post of Laredo principal in November, 2014. "I feel that it's definitely that way for the staff. When there are births, we say we're adding to our Laredo family."
The Laredo community came together to celebrate that sense of family on Feb. 27, as students, teachers and administrators gathered for the school's official fortieth anniversary party held at Blackstone Country Club.
"(Laredo Middle School Principal Edie) Alvarez and the rest of the Laredo community have a lot of time to give before they match the history of the Arapaho tribes that called the land their home, or even the settlers and prospectors who passed the school site on the Smoky Hill Trail. Even so, 40 years is enough to lay a claim to history, however humble."
The ceremony saw a celebration of the school's history in the form of historical facts – the program itself was filled with interesting tidbits like the number of teachers in 1976 (56), the runner-up for the students' choice of school mascot (the Laredo Tomatoes narrowly lost to the winning Laredo Lions) and the approximate enrollment during the 1990s, when Laredo was considered the district's largest middle school (1,500 students).
That data didn't come in a vacuum, however. The real history at the reunion came in human form, in the dozens of people who helped turned Laredo from a new building into a living community. Chief among them was Galen Crowder, the school's first principal who served until 1990.
Crowder stood side-by-side with the school's current principal to accept a distinct honor – the new library at the school was dedicated to him.
According Alvarez, the move is the least the current Laredo community could do for a public servant who helped forge the school's identity and mission.
"For me, it was somewhat emotional. He was very nervous about speaking. He held my hand and said 'Can you believe I did that for 15 years?'" Alvarez said. "I aspire to be a principal like he was. I aspire to have a staff that's that loyal."
Alvarez also aspires to put in a similar number of years to make those aspirations a reality.
"When I was interviewed for this position, I was asked if I plan on giving a lot of years," she said. "I said absolutely … I feel like even the year and a half I've been here, the time has passed by quickly."
Alvarez and the rest of the Laredo community have a lot of time to give before they match the history of the Arapaho tribes that called the land their home, or even the settlers and prospectors who passed the school site on the Smoky Hill Trail. Even so, 40 years is enough to lay a claim to history, however humble.