Synergy holds 40th anniversary kickoff celebration

By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Thu., Nov. 21, 2013
Synergy senior Laiane Camacho, Principal Craig Outhouse and senior Jason Brazalovich at the 40th anniversary kickoff celebration. Photos by Corey AmEnde.
Synergy senior Laiane Camacho, Principal Craig Outhouse and senior Jason Brazalovich at the 40th anniversary kickoff celebration. Photos by Corey AmEnde.

From the school’s humble beginnings in portable classrooms behind the old Penney High School to its current brick and mortar location at Butternut Drive, Synergy Alternative High School has certainly evolved over the past 40 years. On Friday, Nov. 15, a 40th anniversary kickoff celebration was held at the site of the current school to honor the school’s history.

“This is going to be a year-long celebration,” said Principal Craig Outhouse, who added he plans to invite 40 alumni back to the school to speak to the students.  A 40th anniversary celebration is scheduled for April 2014.

The ceremony included speeches by Outhouse, state Sen. Gary LeBeau, Mayor Marcia Leclerc, Bruce Newman, a former teacher at the school, and Laiane Camacho a current student at Synergy. It concluded with the ceremonial planting of a sugar maple tree in the front lawn of the school.

As an educator, LeBeau was hired to start the school in the summer of 1973.  “They gave me a year,” recalled LeBeau, who was the school’s first director.   “We had some money, and I hired another staff member, and we started.”

The school began with two staff members and 35 students in less than desirable conditions behind Penney High School. “The portable units were all decrepit and falling apart,” recalled LeBeau.  “[There were] no bathrooms, and during the winter no heat.  I remember leaving a cup of coffee on a table and coming back the next morning and the coffee was frozen.”

LeBeau said the school has succeeded because it has always met the needs of high school aged kids.  “It always adapted to find a way to do that – academic, personal, social – and always saw the young people as whole individuals,” said LeBeau.

Karl Koenig graduated from Synergy in 1996, after transferring to the school from East Hartford High school during the middle of his sophomore year with just .25 credits. “If I didn’t come to Synergy there is no doubt in my mind I never would have graduated high school. No doubt,” said Koenig. “Getting the opportunity to go to Synergy was huge,” said Koenig.  “Once I came here, I fit in.  It was nose to the grindstone.  I got the superintendent award of the year my senior year.  I wound up getting all of my high school credit in three years.”

Laiane Camacho, a current senior at Synergy, is also grateful for the opportunity to attend the school that has graduated 1,513 students during the past 40 years. “Before I came to Synergy, I was never in school, failing all of my classes, and my temper was completely uncontrollable.  Graduation wasn’t even in sight,” said Camacho.  “When I came to Synergy, I got more hands on help [and] my classes were in a more comfortable setting.  We were in a smaller class, and the staff really does believe that we have potential.  Before long the graduation that was so out of sight now seems so close.”

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