“I Probably Had One of the Best High School Experiences that People Get to Have”: Q&A with Alumna Jenna Roesch

Jenna Roesch is a Newport Harbor High School alumna, class of 1990, who also attended Mariners Elementary and Ensign Intermediate School. Her mother, aunt and grandmother all attended Newport Harbor as well. She recently moved from Texas back to Southern California. Roesch spoke with the Beacon‘s Cooper Dwight about the memories she still cherishes from her high school years.

Q: What was your experience at Newport Harbor High School?

A: It was great; I think, looking back on it, I probably had one of the best high school experiences that people get to have. It was interesting because when I was there, there was this division of people that were from Eastside Costa Mesa and the people that had a lot of money that weren’t from there. The friends I grew up with didn’t have a lot of money, but being in drill team and other things like that totally bonded us. I came from a parade that was at my friend’s house, and we met at Mariners in sixth grade. We would ride our bikes to school, stop at her house, hopefully her mom had made cinnamon rolls, and ride our bikes to either Mariners, Ensign or Harbor. The house I came from today is the house that has been in my family longer than any other house in my whole life, and we’re still friends. 

Q: What was your experience throughout elementary, middle and high school?

A: We got really lucky because two or three of us met at Mariners. I started to Mariners in sixth grade, and then we added two people to our group in seventh grade, and we remained friends all throughout high school. My friend and I met on a handball court; she was the best at handball and she would always win. The only way I could play is if I were the first one to get the ball, and she would always want to go play. It was a great experience; I feel like our education was good, we always felt safe, my friend and I did gymnastics together at Ensign, and we loved being in it together. We were all in drill team together in high school.

Courtesy of Jenna Roesch

Q: How did your experience in drill team shape your relationships?

A: The first year, I didn’t want to be in it. You had to try out, and everyone else did, except for me and one of my friends, because it wasn’t “cool” to be in drill team. It was “cool” to be in dance, or cheer, or song, but drill team was not “cool.” They actually called it the “dog squad” because the kids were so mean. Actually, our drill team was really good, and we won tons of awards, all kinds of medals and parades, but it was not “cool.” So I’ll never forget this one pep rally, we were performing to music; drill team was more “angular” than the other stuff, and the kids were throwing Milk Bone dog biscuits at us. Because [they called us] the “dog squad,” they literally threw those treats that you feed your dog.

We’re performing, we worked really hard, we were actually doing this great routine, trying to entertain people, and that’s what they were doing to us. It was heartbreaking. But at the same time, I feel like, it made us stronger in our friendships with each other, and it taught me that it isn’t necessarily about being pretty, or being popular, or having money, because my relationships that I ended up building are so strong that I moved back home, 50% at least being because of my friends. I could not stand to not be with them anymore; to know that they were having barbeques or happy hours or getting together on Christmas Eve and exchanging presents, I literally couldn’t stand it anymore.

I’ll never forget, it’s on New Years Day. I’m watching football, and I was bored, so I called each of my friends, none of them answered. I found out they were all together, at one of their cabins in the mountains. And I start bawling, I just lost it. All of these girls that I had been friends with for all of these years, were all together at the cabin in the mountains, and I was the only one not there. I was like, “This is unacceptable.” From now on, this ladies trip that happens every January, I will be there. Don’t not invite me to stuff just because I live in Texas. I will get on a plane and come.

Courtesy of Jenna Roesch

And then I started coming out and seeing them more. I realized there is something in that friendship that screams, “I have to move back here.” I had to. It’s like a sisterhood. That’s from starting here at Mariners, and we were bonded together extra because we were on drill team: going on trips, and adventures, and parades, and doing a fun sport together. We’d get to be in the stands at sports games together, perform together, we had a lot of fun. Now being 48, I would probably say I’m in the fifth percentile of people who have friendships like I do. It’s rare to hear about people that have that close net of that many girls being friends for that long.

Q: What was your favorite class you took at Harbor?

A: I can tell you my least favorite: algebra. I hated anything having to do with math. I would probably say drama was my favorite class I took at Harbor, and the teacher was Ms. Brower Nedler.

Q: How well did Harbor set you up for college?

A: Excellent. Very well. I felt like I got a really good education, and I got accepted into multiple colleges. I could have gone to the University of Washington, or anywhere else I applied to. I wanted to stay close, though, so I chose Cal Poly Pomona.

Q: Do you know the difference between when you were attending Harbor versus when your grandmother was attending Harbor?

A: I do not, that is a great question. I never really got to talk to my grandmother about that, and she died quite a few years ago, but I think I have my grandmother’s yearbooks, and my aunt went to Harbor, too, and we still have some of my mom’s.