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OHS Class of 1971 Shares Experiences With Students

OSSINING, N.Y. – From the Vietnam War and the Beatles to how they got to where they are in their careers, Ossining High School Class of 1971 alumni talked about their life experiences with current high school seniors on Friday as part of their 40th reunion activities.

"During high school, there were riots. I remember they hired police to stand in the hallways because there were riots like every other day" to protest the Vietnam War and other issues, said Kathen Cowen, a Class of 1971 alumna who is now a musician and music teacher.

Cowen recalled hitchhiking down to D.C. to attend a protest with her boyfriend and being tear gassed as well as losing her shoes. She also happened upon a gay convention which was an "eye opener" for her.

Linda Matthews, a recently retired social worker, recalled trying to form an African-American Club with a group of African-American students in her senior year at Ossining High School.

"We had to make a presentation to the principal and vice principal, and it did not go well," Matthews recalled. "We were not well received and we were denied the club."

To protest the denial, Matthews and the group of students left school, and they were nearly expelled for walking out, the alumna recalled.

"We had a hearing at the superintendent's office and it was a really big mess, but we did not get expelled," Matthews said.

Matthews also recalled a high school dress code policy being changed during her freshman year so that girls could wear pants to school instead of only dresses and skirts.

David Jaffe, a programmer with Dell, urged students to pursue their real interests because work will be much more fun if they are doing something they like.

"I love going to work and I love playing with computers, and high tech pays well, there's a demand for it," Jaffe said.

A recent college graduate with a bachelor's degree in computers can make $40,000 to $60,000 per year, Jaffe said.

Other Class of 1971 alumni urged students to never stop learning and to go for their dreams.

"Find something that you love and go for it," said Susan Knell, who is now a clinical psychologist.

Seniors in an Economics/Personal Finance class who listened to the Class of 1971 panel did not have much time for questions and comments, but they indicated their interest in the alumnus' various careers by raising their hands.

For the rest of their weekend, Class of 1971 alumni planned to go out to dinner in groups, to hike at Teatown Lake Reservation on Saturday morning and to attend a dinner/dance party on Saturday night at the DoubleTree Hotel in Tarrytown.

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