History of Utica High School- Then vs. Now

Davan Palmer, Online Reporter

Walking across the stage as you hear your name called out. Being handed the official piece of paper . The flashing lights as pictures are being taken. Relief and realization that courses through you when its over. 

Graduation day. The day that marks the end of one’s high school career. Everyone anticipates it, aiming for highest marks, and remembers it for years to come. 

At graduation, I remember seeing all of my favorite teachers, the procession after you grab your degree,” teacher Holly Yucha said. “They’re waiting for you with open arms and they are all excited for your accomplishment.”  

The Utica Union School, built in 1860, was the second school built in Utica since the first people to settle in Utica, Michigan. It offered 12 years of education, and was three stories tall. A fire in 1905 made it unsafe, requiring them to remove the top floor. That building was used until 1929, when a new, larger school was built. 

“One thing I’ve seen change is the building,” Yucha said, “It’s changed significantly. We used to have a swimming pool, one less gym, the media center was in a completely different place, and the office faced Wiley. It’s had so many improvements, when I came back I felt like I was in a brand new building.” 

From 1929-1955, the current Eppler Junior High School Building was used as Utica High School, housing the grammar school and high school students. 

“I’m glad that I did come back to Utica, but I was placed here, so it wasn’t my choice,” Associate principal Deborah Olson said. “Although, it would be my first choice, had I been given one, but it just so happened to be the position they needed filled and I got it. It feels amazing to be back. I love our staff, I love our students, so I couldn’t be happier about that.” 

These perceptions of who you are and what you were in high school aren’t going to matter to anyone in the world.

— Thom Dionne

On April 18, 1952, H. H. Wiley Elementary was opened about a mile down the road from Utica High School. It housed every grade below grammar school classes. 

Three years later, a new building emerged across the road from Wiley Elementary. This became the brand new Utica High School building, housing grades 9-12. The former became the current Eppler Junior High School building, housing grades 7 & 8. 

There weren’t any traditions that my class started, but I heard of a tradition long before I got here,” teacher Jeffery LaPratt said. “ I was told that when we played Romeo in basketball, our team literally dribbled the ball from Romeo High School all the way back to Utica, or from Utica to Romeo. This was before the other three high schools were around, so I asked a couple of old timers and they said that it was an old tradition.” 

As of Sept. 1954, the Utica district only had one high school, three junior highs, and eleven elementary schools. By the end of the 1960’s, there were four high schools, five junior highs, and twenty-eight elementary schools built.  

“When you leave Utica High School, everything that you had these perceptions of who you are and what you were in high school,” Utica Mayor Thom Dionne said, “aren’t going to matter to anyone in the world. You’re going to move into the world, or you’re going to move into the professional world, or wherever you’re going to move into, people are going to accept you because of you. There are no cliques in the real world, it’s exponentially easier outside of high school. You never really know whyour next best friend is going to be, because you certainly may not have ever met them yet. High school has its time and its place, and there is certainly no problem with that. It’s only preparing you to be who you’re going to be when you grow up, and you don’t even know who that’s going to be yet. You’re going to look back on high school and think none of that even mattered.”