A special celebration will take place this weekend of former students of a Levin school that sprouted in the 70s when the town was bursting at the seams.

Organisers of the celebration of Waiopehu College foundation pupils were blown away by the response after putting feelers out on Facebook, including one from a former principal who is 79.

Colin Hagan, along with former teacher Selwyn Leitch who is 10 years younger, will join more than 70 people for a weekend of story telling and reminiscing.

Waiopehu College was opened during a boom time for the town as a population increase also new schools Levin Intermediate and Taitoko Primary School were established. Many children were foundation members of all three schools.


At the time the town's only school, Horowhenua College, was struggling to cope with 1200 students, so a new school had to be built.

Foundation pupils Margaret Stewart, Lyn Shearman, Sharon Morley and Michele Walls had organised the reunion. There were 67 people attending a reunion dinner and 72 booked for a luncheon.

Stewart said people travelled from all over New Zealand to attend, with some travelling from Australia, and even the US.

They said there was something special about belonging to that first class at the school and many of the students became lifelong friends. Some former pupils who met during that first intake found love and were still married.

"We're all turning 60 so it was an opportunity to have a reunion and the college has been really supportive of it," she said.

They had a weekend of activities and celebrations planned, including a slide show, but missing was a photo of those first year students, as none were taken at the time.

In written recollections, many students said they remembered how fresh and new the class smelt when they sat down for that first lesson.

"Jack Porter (school principal) called us all into the courtyard for the first assembly as we stood in the covered walkways waiting for our names to be called out. He talked of creating a new school with new ideas and that we were at the forefront of this," said one memory.


"We felt somewhat special as a group from that moment to this day. These friendships remain strong to this day. We were indeed lucky."

The first intake at Waiopehu College was classrooms of third formers in 1973. They were joined each year by more students and teachers as the school grew around them.

"As foundation pupils, we were very privileged to have a small intake in the first year, with only third formers, so we pretty much knew everyone and we had the advantage of not having any older students to hassle you," another memory said.

"The teachers and administration staff were fantastic. We were given a lot of leadership and great opportunities. Many parents played a key role in the establishment of the college."

"I loved the relaxed atmosphere and the willingness of teachers to go the extra mile for us. We had a cool uniform and the college was run with a very modern outlook. Maybe this was because many of the teachers were so young."

A coup for reunion organisers as a special guest would be the school's second Colin Hagan, who would turn 80 this year.

"They told me that teaching in a new school would be exciting and rewarding and this was certainly the case with Waiopehu College. It turned out to be all that and more," he said.

"It was great to be among bright-eyed third formers, approximately 168 of them along with 10 teachers plus office personnel and a caretaker at a brand new school in 1973."

"From the outset it was a very happy place as we worked out best ways of running a new school. The students themselves were enthusiastic and felt privileged to be foundation pupils at the college."

Another staff member, Selwyn Leitch, was travelling from the West Coast of the South Island where he now lived.

"When I reflected on what being a beginning teacher in 1973 at Waiopehu College in Levin means to me now, I think that in many ways I was at the beginning of a parallel journey to some of the new staff and probably most, if not all of the students," he said.

"It was a privilege and honour to be a teacher at Waiopehu College in 1973. I look back and think of all those wonderful, fresh-faced, most excited, some anxious young people, who were probably wondering what is this school going to be like."

"No doubt many would be wondering what the staff were going to be like. I too had similar thoughts and concerns, as a green, first-year teacher, wondering what both the adults and the students would be like."

"I value the continuing friendships with those associated with Waiopehu College during my time there."

"The fact that so many of these 60-year-olds are coming to this reunion is testament to how important Waiopehu College is to us all. Congratulations and thanks to the Waiopehu College 60th Birthday Reunion team for enabling this wonderful event to occur."

Waiopehu College currently has a roll of 616 students.

The former students had organised a large carved tiki to be presented to the school for a Year 9 student who demonstrates school values of positivity (Rangatiratanga), respect (Kaitiakitanga), determination (Manawanuitanga) and excellence (Angitūtanga).

There would also be a time set aside during the weekend to remember those students and staff members who had died.