By Steven Piper
From 1924 to 1987, a private school in Signal Hill had a mission to instill the duties of citizenship, the value of teamwork, the importance of the rights of others, and the formation of good social habits, which were embodied by its motto that prioritized character over career. Its students wore uniforms every day, and their discipline could be observed in their academics, or perhaps during a dress parade. They were the cadets of the Southern California Military Academy (SCMA).
When the academy closed its doors 23 years ago, it was the end of a historic era in the local education system.
Classmates, teachers, and staff of the academy, however, will be able to reminisce about their school days at a reunion on Saturday, July 24 from noon to 4pm at Signal Hill Park.
Kirk Schenewark, of SCMA’s class of 1985, is coordinating the event. “While the group will be small, we hope to build it over the years to come into a reunion consisting of alumni from as far back as possible in an effort to bridge the generational divide and maintain the esprit de corps and memories of the Southern California Military Academy,” Schenewark said. “Thanks to social networking sites such as Facebook and Classmates.com, a new resurgence of alumni has surfaced.”Any ex-SCMA community members interested in attending the event should RSVP as soon as possible. “We are requesting that people send $10 with their RSVP and also bring food to the event,” Schenewark said. The $10 fee will help pay for tables, chairs and other event supplies. The ex-cadet also said he can use additional volunteers and donations to make the reunion a success. Any alumni memorabilia, of course, will also add to the event’s success.
A group called The Cadets of The Southern California Military Academy has been created on Facebook to bring the disbanded alumni back together. There are close to 190 group members, and Schenewark has been using the website to coordinate planning efforts as well as to take RSVPs.
The institution was located at the corner of Cherry Avenue and 21st Street. It regimented and instructed youth, from pre-kindergarten all of the way through their senior year in high school.
With instruction in the standard disciplines, such as biology, English, and even piano classes, the school offered additional lessons in traditional military drill exercises and ceremonies. Chains of command were established, allowing the students to rise through the ranks and take on more responsibilities. There was even an enlisted corps and an officers corps of students.
According to an email from Schenewark detailing the history of the academy: “Through this system of reward and discipline, cadets attending SCMA learned to adopt the academy motto ‘Character before career’ into their lives.’” As attendance slowly declined, the school was forced to shut down and the historic buildings were demolished, making way for a new era of education.
What had been the Academy’s grounds is now the location of Long Beach Unified School District’s Alvarado Elementary School.