President Lyndon B. Johnson declined to seek a second term, and Richard M. Nixon was elected President of the United States. On the Mark Keppel High School campus, the 1970's began in continuing unrest, the volatile issues of the 60's not yet resolved. Racial tensions continued, and now the specter of gang violence arose. The Black Pride movement and the Chicano Movement brought hope to some students while alienating others. Activism continued, but it shifted subtlely from anti-war protests to a return to the pre-Vietnam War demand for racial equality. On the Keppel campus, a Chicano Studies course was developed to address this issue. Mexican-American and Latino clubs were formed as alternatives to the perceived exclusivity of existing campus clubs. An uneasy peace settled over Keppel in the early 1970's, as if students and staff tacitly agreed that problems existed but that solutions existed, too. The student body-white and Hispanic alike-accepted and embraced the new clubs as serving an important role in bridging differences. And fortunately, the gang activities that plagued area neighborhoods did not find expression on campus.
On the athletic field, Keppel fielded teams with mixed results. The major sports teams posted mediocre records, but lesser sports teams such as wrestling and tennis proved to be league powerhouses. Montezuma Field was re christened Aztec Stadium in light of Montezuma's redefined image as a weak and defeated leader. As if rising from its own ashes, school spirit began to grow, slowly but steadily. Cultural diversity was recognized as ASB Cabinet began sponsoring Cinco de Mayo assemblies and festivals. Clubs relaxed their racial exclusivity and gradually began to more closely resemble the ethnic makeup of the student body.
In academics, Keppel could boast that fewer students were dropping out, as more and more students took advantage of effective federally- and state-funded programs to improve their reading and mathematics skills. Advanced Placement classes began to post exemplary scores with regularity.
One potent shot in the arm for Keppel morale came in the form of Project Student. During the watch of Principal Wayne Henderson in 1971-72, with the campus leadership of social studies teacher Robert Low and student leader Sandra Serna, with community support, and with the backing of local state legislators, Project Student successfully lobbied Sacramento for much-needed improvements to Keppel's physical plant. What made project student unique was that the State legislature passed a bill that would benefit only Mark Keppel High School.
After years of enduring either stifling heat waves with closed classroom windows or, with windows open, deafening traffic noise from the adjacent San Bernardino Freeway, Keppel received the state's first "noise attenuation barrier," a concrete and masonry wall to replace the chain link fence separating the campus from the freeway. As a result of Project Student, the main building would be closed during the 1974-75 school year in order for crews to install air conditioning and insulated windows.
The closing of Keppel required that teachers and students share Alhambra High School facilities in double sessions, Alhambra High operating in the morning, Keppel in the afternoon. Remarkably, few if any student conflicts occurred during this awkward period of proximity between the rival schools. And afterward, while Keppelites began to settle back into their home campus routine after returning from the year-long exile, more changes were on the wayIn the middle and late 1970's, these changes would be much more dramatic than simply concrete and glass.
As the Vietnam War drew to a close, Vietnamese and Cambodian citizens who had escaped the Communist regimes in their home countries sought refuge in camps in the Philippines and other havens, then made their way to the United States. The personality of the community surrounding Keppel began to change as the first of the Vietnamese "boat people's" children began enrolling in local schools.
Teachers and native-born students were shocked by the tales these students told of dramatic middle-of-the-night escapes with only the clothes on their back and the little money and jewelry they could sew into their clothing, of harrowing open-sea crossings in flimsy boats, of gun-point searches by modern-day pirates intent on taking anything of value from them, of squalid conditions in refugee camps while they waited for a sponsor for their immigration to the U.S. As Keppelites-native and refugee alike-struggled to integrate the disparate cultures that had suddenly found themselves shoulder to shoulder in Keppel's crowded halls, the school continued to faithfully reflect the community that nurtured it. The ethnic changes that began even at the birth of the school would continue even more dramatically in the 1980's.