It's worth noting when a school building reaches 50 years of educating students, but it's a point of pride when many graduates go on to become famous athletes, performers or successful businesspeople.
A celebratory picnic after school on Friday paid tribute on both fronts to Lincoln Junior High School in Naperville and drew about 250 families for pizza, a raffle and a DJ on the playground.
"It's nice to bring the community and the Lincoln family back together like this," said Principal Patrick Gaskin. "It's a great reason to get us all together to share stories about Lincoln and how education has changed over time. But the one thing that hasn't changed is always putting the kids first."
With an enrollment of 891 students, Lincoln is one of five junior highs in District 203.
"For all 22 of our schools, kids are always the focus," said Superintendent Dan Bridges. "Everything we do is to celebrate what they're able to do and what they bring to our schools. I think marking an occasion like this celebrates the strength of the community over time."
One of Lincoln's most accomplished graduates is Owen Daniels, who went on to lead Naperville Central to an undefeated football season and the IHSA Class 6A state championship in 1999. After playing at the University of Wisconsin, he was a two-time NFL Pro Bowl tight end with the Houston Texans and this year signed a contract with the Baltimore Ravens.
Women's basketball standout Candace Parker attended Lincoln. After playing at Naperville Central and the University of Tennessee, Parker helped the United States win the gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics and has played for the Los Angeles Sparks WNBA team since that year.
After attending Lincoln, Patricia Adamatis eventually became a physical education instructor at Central high school, a post she has held for 29 years.
"I grew up here in Naperville," she said. "I have four brothers and sisters, and now a husband and two sons."
Adamatis recalled playing girls' basketball when jersey numbers were taped onto t-shirts and the season was three games long.
"I remember in one of my social studies classes, we built a civilization of clay figures, then went outside and buried everything in the dirt," she said. "We then dug up the civilization from another classroom and had to figure out what they were representing. It was kind of an exercise in archaeology, really fun."
Course offerings at Lincoln today are somewhat different.
"There are really nice teachers here," said current student Emma Yager, 12. "I like the 'exploratories.' That's four different classes that you switch off during the year, like art, tech, music and 'FACS'" or family and consumer science.
"What I remember is Mr. Schroeder's social studies class," said Emma's mother, Amy, who attended Lincoln in the 1980s. "He was stern, but it was a 'good stern.' I just remember that his presence just inspired me as a learner."
Amy Yager went on to earn undergraduate and master's degrees from Ball State University and now works for Edward Hospital.
"An event like this allows my kids to see the teachers who educated and molded mom," Yager said. "It really shows the pride. I'm proud of this school, I'm proud of who my daughter is, and that's why we're all here."
Lincoln opened in the fall of 1963. Twenty-five years later, in 1988, a time capsule was packed with mementos of the era. That box of goodies was opened Friday to reveal some old school projects, a stuffed mascot, yearbooks and a 1988 edition of the Chicago Tribune.
Ben Wiersum is a 2002 graduate who has used his District 203 education to start his own audio business, Ben Wiersum Sound Technology, which provided music for the picnic.
"We used to do a rollerblading unit in gym class, and we pieced together a small sound system for that," he said. "There were a lot of wonderful people who'd answer my endless questions. What started out as a hobby has turned into a full-time job."