The Most Unsuspected Graduating Seniors - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Islander Times News

The Most Unsuspected Graduating Seniors

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Posted: Friday, May 30, 2014 4:57 pm

On June 5th at 7:30 p.m., 277 Coronado High School (CHS) seniors will graduate, but everyone is forgetting about the two most important recent additions to this graduating class. Attendance Clerk Denise Hopkins and Receptionist Kathy Neubauer are graduating too and will be attending the prestigious University of Retirement.

These two irreplaceable women that greet you as you walk through the main office every morning and throughout the day are leaving Coronado after each has dedicated over 25 years to the students and clerical needs of CHS and the Coronado Unified School District (CUSD). “As one of [the] students said, ‘Longer than I have been alive,’” said Hopkins as she reflected on all the years spent making memories at CHS.

While Hopkins and Neubauer are very well known around CHS, there is a lot more than meets the eye. Who would have thought that while shamefully dragging your feet down the aisle to admit your tardiness to Hopkins, that the same woman giving you a pass had migrated to Coronado from Anchorage, Alaska via sailboat—the same city that was once home to Vice Principal Stephen Abbott? Or that Neubauer, the same woman answering the incessant CHS phone calls, had won first place at a shooting range with an M1 Garand rifle? There is definitely more than meets the eye about some of CHS’s most adventurous women.

It all began in Anchorage, Alaska where Hopkins grew up. Her first job made a whopping $5.50 per hour at the Sears coffee shop where Hopkins’ job description as a barista included cleaning the deep fryers and washing dishes with remnants of customers’ half eaten tuna fish sandwiches. To our surprise, when asked if she liked her job, Hopkins immediately said, “No.” She went on to graduate from high school and to start a family; which led to the long gradual journey to Coronado.

Hopkins’ husband at the time was infatuated with the idea of living on a sailboat so they set off to do it. They stopped in Washington for a few years and then proceeded to make their way all the way down the coast. Hopkins’s next job was the position she is currently retiring from.

In addition to Hopkins’ work in the office, she enjoys photography very much and volunteers her time to photograph one of the dress rehearsals from each of the Coronado School of the Arts (CoSA) Musical Theatre & Drama Conservatory’s productions to capture the scenes and dance numbers for all to enjoy.

Speaking of pictures, it’s a tradition for each senior to give a photo of themselves to Hopkins for her to put up on the walls surrounding her desk in order to remind her of those students and for the whole office to see. Because she is retiring, there is the question as to what will become of all those photos. Hopkins plans to scan all of them to her computer and place them in a digital frame at her house where all of them can play like a slideshow. This way, she can continue to cherish them and quiz her self on everyone’s names, “It will be keep me young. I won’t have to do Sudoku […] I don’t like math,” said Hopkins. So, all those students who think it is too late to give her your picture, you still have the opportunity to do so before the end of the year!

Besides quizzing herself on the names of CHS alumni, Hopkins plans to spend her retirement helping her daughter take care of her one year old grandson as she interns with her Masters Forensic Science program. Hopkins also plans on exercising and hiking at Mission Trails.

Interestingly enough, it was also a connection to the water that brought Neubaurer to Coronado as her husband served in the Navy. Her and her family lived in the naval housing in the Strand for twelve years. While she no longer lives in Coronado, Neubaurer loved CHS too much to leave Coronado behind altogether when she moved to Chula Vista.

Despite Neubaurer’s busy schedule, she still manages to find time to have fun with the family and do what she loves whether it’s launching rockets at the desert or going for a hike at Cowles Mountain. Before her husband passed away, the whole family would go to the shooting range where her husband taught her and their three daughters firearm safety and how to shoot a gun. It was during that time when her husband suggested that she enter a shooting competition and Neubaurer won first place in her division. “I placed first in the competition, but here’s the catch: I was the only woman in the women’s category,” said Neubaurer. If that wasn’t surprising enough, a gun is not the only weapon Neubaurer can shoot. Next to her church is the Olympic training center for archery where she took lessons to handle a bow and arrow. But it doesn’t end there—Neubauer also loves scuba diving, water skiing, cross country snow skiing, and biking.

Not only does she want to spend her retirement spending time with her three daughters and nine grandchildren, she feels a great need to give back to the community and to work with students in some way, shape, or form but has not decided how just yet. So far, she is leaning towards “becoming a master gardener because I love gardening. And wouldn’t it be fun to be apart of a community garden and maybe do it with high school students—or any students?” said Neubaurer. In the meantime while she searches for the perfect fit, she is excitedly waiting for one of her daughters to drive down from Wisconsin so they can take the kids to Disneyland for the very first time. “You know in the commercials when they say ‘Oh, Mr. So-and-so, what are your plans for the future?’ They say ‘I’m going to Disneyland,’ and I really am going to Disneyland!”

Both Hopkins and Neubauer say they will miss all the students the most about CHS. Neubaurer even recalled a time when the school was under construction and the quad was just dirt and it just so happened that it would rain a lot that year. One day, a student decided to bring his kayak to school and sail across the quad to everyone’s immense entertainment.

Hopkins and Neubaurer say that they will miss us the most but after talking to many students, faculty, and members of the community, they will be missed just as much if not more.

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