It may only be an hour and a half or so away from Denver, but Pueblo remains close to the heart for thousands of former ‘Steel City’ men and women who today call Denver home. At what used to be an annual celebration, ‘the Pueblo Reunion,’ a speaker once said that there were 20,000 Pueblo ex-pats living all across the metro area. And at the old reunion, one of the first questions long ago Puebloans (LAP’s) would ask other LAP’s is ‘where’d you go to high school,’ a question everyone could identify with.
Time has a way of embellishing memory, especially high school memories. But for LAP’s, here’s a quick glance at today’s Centennial, Central, East and South High Schools. (Schools are listed alphabetically.)
Centennial is Pueblo’s oldest high school. The original school was opened in 1873 and sat just outside of the city’s downtown business district. It was demolished and relocated to the city’s far northwest side where it opened in 1973. It serves 1,000 students and, said Pueblo School District 60 Board President Barbara Clementi, “offers a wide range of Advanced Placement Courses and a Health Academy” that provides opportunity to graduate with an Associates Degree and CNA license.
High achieving former Bulldogs include technology icon, David Packer, the ‘Packer’ of Hewlett-Packer and Drew Dix, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War.
As 19th Century Pueblo grew, voters decided a new high school was essential and Central was built in 1881. Its unique architecture with statuesque Greek columns adorning its entrance make it a fascinating look into the past. Today, Central’s enrollment is fixed at around 800 students. Clementi said its mission includes a rigorous STEM program which includes an “introduction to Engineering, Principles of Engineering, Environmental Sustainability, Principles of Biomedical Sciences and Human Body Systems.” Because of its longevity, its list of Wildcats of renown is lengthy. Among them are a former Governor Walter W. Johnson and NFL Hall of Famer, Earl “Dutch” Clark (the district’s football stadium carries his name).
The Central-Centennial football game each year is the oldest high school rivalry west of the Mississippi. It’s intensity often splits family loyalty, but in a good way.
As Pueblo grew and one of the first waves of baby boomers came on the scene, city voters approved two new high schools. East and South High Schools graduated their first classes in 1960. But declining enrollment at East will force voters in November to decide if it will remain open. East “offers the International Baccalaureate Program, Marketing, Culinary Arts/Catering, Manufacturing, ACE/WES and a Teacher Academy,” said Clementi.
The Cannon Game, played against cross-town rival, South, is also an annual rite of Fall in Pueblo. Most recently East has reigned as state 3A football champions, winning in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Its wrestling team was state champions in 2019.
Among its high achieving Eagle alumni are Admiral Gordon Russell (ret.) and former Major League Soccer all-star, Nate Borchers.
South High School serves a student body of 1,000. Students are offered “CISCO and A+ certification programs along with video and audio production curriculum.” They can also take Oceanology/Environmental Sciences, Business, Criminal Justice and ACE/WES programs. South, along with the city’s three other high schools also “have stellar arts and music programs, with theater as well,” said Clementi.
Frances Marie Vallejo is one of South Colts distinguished alumni. She is a geophysicist and sits on the Board of Trustees Member at Colorado School of Mines.
In our story on Pueblo schools, La Voz Bilingue incorrectly stated that because of declining enrollment, voters will decide in November if East High School will remain open. there is declining enrollment, however, it is not just an issue at East but throughout District 60. The bond issue vote in November will give the community the decision to invest in all its schools. If passed, it will provide a brand new building for East and Centennial and upgrade South and Central High Schools along with a number of elementary and middle schools. La Voz regrets the error.