Francis Lewis HS celebrates 50 years with alumni bash

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Hundreds of Francis Lewis High School alumni and their families gathered at the Fresh Meadows school Saturday for a party 50 years in the making.

Nearly 400 former students of all ages joined 100 teens currently attending the school at the campus at 58-20 Utopia Pkwy. for the nearly all-day celebration.

Jeffrey Scherr, the school’s former principal and chairman of the 50th anniversary committee, said the event was highly anticipated by the student body because it allowed them to meet their predecessors and see how far they had come since they roamed the hallways.

The former administrator and counselor said teachers have been raising the bar academically and many bright students have been eager to take part in their highly rated programs.

“I think the 50th anniversary coincides with our rise to the top … within the last 15 years,” said the former administrator who worked at the school from 1983-2008.

The school put on a full show for those who returned to their alma mater. A presentation of the school’s colors, barbecue lunch and performances from Francis Lewis’ various musical bands and clubs headlined the day.

Many alumni, such as Esther Stein, of the class of 1972, who came up from Weston, Fla., said the best part was the class reunion. The school set up three different reunion sections, 1963-79, 1980-94 and 1995-2009.

Stein, who had not been back to the school in several years, said she had fun rekindling old ties with her former classmates and reminiscing over their yearbook photos.

“It’s so great to see everyone who you haven’t seen in years,” the saleswoman said.

Current Francis Lewis HS students, aka Patriots, said they enjoyed mingling with their older counterparts.

Junior Susan Tsang, 16, of Flushing, said she had really connected with the alumni since they shared the same experiences.

“It’s so crazy how time flies,” she said.

Francis Lewis’ educational legacy began in September 1960, when it began serving 1,500 students. Within two years the school, built for 3,000 teens, had an enrollment of close to 5,000.

The school’s overcrowded hallways have always been infamous, it ranks as the city’s most overcrowded public high school, but students said the building offers a lot of opportunities academically and socially. The average attendance is at 92 percent, less than 5 percent of students drop out and a wide variety of high-level courses including AP classes are offered and highly sought after by competitive students, according to Scherr.

Hundreds of students have gone on to attend top-rated colleges and some students were honored with prizes such as the Siemens Westinghouse science prize. The school’s extracurricular activities, such as its various sports teams and drama club, helped to garner new friendships among students.

“Even though it’s crowded, you’re friends with a lot of people and you’re family,” Tsang said.

Principal M. Ali Shama said he was happy with the way the event turned out and hopes more alumni will come back and revisit the school. His alumni committee has set up a new Web site,, for them to reconnect in a 21st-century style.

“The goal is to tap into the great resource of our alumni and create an alumni network for our students,” he said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 5:55 pm, October 10, 2011
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