San FranciscoSF History

Growing up in San Francisco: A Middle Class, Catholic School Gal

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By Adlyn South Donahan

415 Catholic School Gal

From the 1960’s to the early 2000’s, Catholic schools reigned top dog when it came to first choice education for the middle class. In San Francisco, every district had a Catholic school you could send your kid to. After K-8th grade, there were a plethora of Catholic High Schools to continue your overpriced Jesuit studies. If you ever meet a native San Franciscan between the ages of 25-65, there’s a 50% chance they went to Catholic school.

Me, the alter server.

Now I’m going to make an assumption here that the percentage will go down significantly for the mid 20’s-teenage group. Why? Catholic schools are closing left and right and more and more parents are sending their kids to public schools or nondenominational private schools. You know, the kind of private schools that meditate for 30 minutes a day and learn real-life career shit like industrial design, coding, and robotics, while tending to an Ayesha Curry grade herb garden.

Ayesha Curry, sells hella Martha Stewart ish now.

To be honest, I’m jealous of those kids for having a well-rounded, HIGHLY cultured, disruptive education. I had to sing choir as my form of creative expression and altar serve just to go on a noneducational field trip at the end of the year (shout out to Blackberry Farm in Cupertino).

Blackberry Farm in Cupertino

When I meet someone else who went to Catholic School in SF, there’s that instant connection of “dang, I already know everything about you just by where you went to school.” I went to School of the Epiphany in the Excelsior District which is one of the biggest parishes in the city. Any kid who went to Corpus Christi (Excelsior) or St. Elizabeth’s (Portola district), hated on Epiphany kids because we were one of the more competitive sports schools and we were just a big spoiled monster. St. Elizabeth’s and Corpus Christi were two of the many schools that closed btw.

It’s kind of bittersweet knowing the age of first choice enrollment for your child into Catholic school is dwindling down. I get it, it’s over-priced, Catholicism isn’t exactly a “hip” religion, and the curriculum doesn’t get updated to the same degree as a charter school. Now on to the G-word–gentrification. To give a little back story, the Excelsior district’s demographic was primarily Irish and Italian Catholics. Then the “white flight” happened in which they relocated to more suburban cities like San Bruno, San Mateo, Burlingame (basically anything South of South City down 280).

Then in the 1970’s the demographic shifted to more Filipino, Mexican, and Chinese. As being one of the six white kids in my graduating class, I remember the shock of seeing a hipster for the first time in the Excelsior. “Is this the next Brooklyn?” I thought to myself. While the Excelsior isn’t exactly the “New Mission,” it’s making a few additions to welcome in the tech squad *insert guy walking into Broken Record asking, “Do you have IPA on tap?”*

I’m not going into the whole anti-tech convo that you’ve heard all natives ramble on about a million times (trust me, I’m guilty as charged). I am just thankful and lucky to have what I think is now somewhat endangered. A true middle class, San Francisco, Catholic school gal.

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