For Carol Campbell, getting a job at Hawthorne Elementary was like coming home.

More than 40 years after graduating from the eighth grade at Hawthorne, she returned to teach second grade in the same classroom she had once sat in herself as a second-grader.

"Coming back to Hawthorne was a joy to me. It was like a walk down memory lane," Campbell said.

And when Hawthorne Elementary celebrated its 100th birthday Wednesday, students from the past and present commemorated the same strong sense of school community that brought Campbell back to her roots.

Campbell's great aunt, and possibly the oldest living alumni of Hawthorne, 103-year-old Emma Kuhl was even in attendance, along with more than 10 other graduates from the Hawthorne's early years.

For Campbell, the school is as much about family as it is community. More than 20 of her family members went to school here.

"There's been a relative that went here every decade until the 1980s," she said. "It was kind of Campbell-free until 1999 when I came back."

Principal Becky Sorenson said many students at the school now have parents or relatives who went to Hawthorne, and although she's only been at the school for a year, it's an honor for her to join a century-old institution.

"The thing that I take seriously in my role as principal is to carry on the tradition that's been going on for 100 years," Sorenson said.

Hawthorne Elementary got some of the same birthday customs Wednesday evening its students might expect, only maybe on a little grander scale. Of course there was cake and ice cream. Oversized birthday cards made by a class of fifth-graders hung in the gym along with balloons and streamers, and the fifth-grade band played the "Happy Birthday."

First-graders led the crowd in the Hawthorne Hawks chant, and Campbell spoke to an expected crowd of 200 to 300 people about the history of the school.

The first school in the Orchard Homes neighborhood, the Orchard Homes School, was built in 1901 near what is now the corner of Third and Reserve streets. By 1910, overcrowding resulted in the need for a larger school, and the first Hawthorne School building opened in 1911. At the time, the school was considered to be the most modern building in the district.

The original building was damaged during a fire in 1975, but was reconstructed soon after, and today's school building is in the original location.

Although Campbell teaches in the same classroom she was once a student in, a great deal has changed since she was a student.

Teachers now worry about students walking down Third Street to get to school because of speeding cars, but Campbell remembers feeling safe and happy making the walk to and from school in the 1960s.

The chalkboards have been replaced with white boards, and technology is now a vital part of education. Some of the playground equipment she once played on remains, but much of it is new.

But there are some things that won't ever change for Campbell.

"The kids have a strong work ethic and pride in their school, which we've always had," she said. "And the tradition of community support throughout the years has stayed the same."

Sasha Helmer, one of Campbell's second-grade students, doesn't think much has changed in the past 100 years, and thinks it will stay that way for the next century, too.

However, there is one thing she hopes Hawthorne students will always have.

"I wish in the future Hawthorne children will have as much fun as we have now," she said.

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