Looking ahead to a fall semester that would be unlike any other at Evergreen Park Community High School (EPCHS), Athletic Director Jim Soldan wanted to do something different.
He wanted to liven things up in the school’s hallways, including installing a Military Wall, an alumni board and a wall-wrap mural banner that features over 200 photos from the school’s history since it opened in 1956.
“Late this summer when things kind of changed in the athletic world, not as many things going on, we talked with our superintendent [Tom O’Malley] about the hallway and doing some things to spruce it up,” Soldan said. “We wanted to give it a face lift. The hallway had this yellow brick that’s been there since the 1950s. We wanted to get us into our school colors [green and gray].”
EPCHS unveiled the new hallway, including the Military Wall, just before Veteran’s Day.
The tribute to EPCHS’ military alums currently features pictures of over 100 alumni with plenty of space for more to be added.
“We have a design in place to expand to another panel,” Soldan said. “We didn’t want a big blank space up there to start. We’ll wait a couple weeks because photos will flood in, but it’s easy to print them out and add people to the wall. We’d love to get as many as we possibly can. It’s cool to see.”
Soldan said any EPCHS alumni can e-mail him their name, the year they graduated from Evergreen Park, a photo of themselves and what military branch they served in at firstname.lastname@example.org.
After months of work to get the project going, Soldan enjoying seeing responses from the school’s faculty.
“It was nice to be able to work on it, and it’s nice to see the staff go out there and say ‘Oh, I know him. I had him in class,’” Soldan said. “Over the years, there are so many kids. We track them as they went right from school, but a lot of kids we didn’t know because it was a year or two after they got out of high school.”
Soldan said he’s looking forward to watching the Military Wall expand in the coming weeks and months as the word gets out.
“It’s exciting to see it grow,” Soldan said. “And, don’t just say [the military branch]. If you were part of an elite force, a Navy SEAL, a Green Beret, let us know. People really like that part of military history. Send your highest rank. Do we have any colonels and generals out there? We’d love to see it.”
The alumni board features the Class of 2020 and where the student-athletes are currently attending college.
Each student is a magnet on the board, making it easy to send the magnets to respective families each year and update with the next graduating class.
The wall wrap on the other side of the hallway, created and installed by a company named Bannerville, features over 200 photos through the school’s history over the decades.
Soldan said he and Assistant Athletic Director Pat Flannigan, Yearbook Adviser Beth Spezia and Assistant Michelle Herman dove headfirst into years of digital photos, black and white and color photos and plenty of yearbooks for any photo that screamed out “EP!”
“We had thousands of photos and found about 200, which is what they needed,” Soldan said. “The only negative now is people can’t come in and see them, but eventually that’ll happen. The best thing about the mural is it’s easy to continue. We can expand, blend in the pictures together and keep going.”