Volunteer's Web site unites classmates

Graduates can post photos, information about selves, families

Posted: Friday, April 02, 2004

Tim Randall of Battle Ground, Wash., doesn't know Jason Soza. But it's thanks to Soza that Randall may renew a friendship with a classmate from Juneau-Douglas High School now living in Seattle.

Soza, 23, runs a Web site, www.JDHSGrads.com, for JDHS alumni at his own cost. Graduates can post information about themselves, post photos of themselves and their families, talk to each other in a forum, hear about upcoming reunions and link to other Web sites in Juneau.

"It's interesting to see some photos of people your age with their own families and to hear how successful they have made their lives," said Brooke McMeen of Juneau, Class of 1998.

Randall, Class of 1971, moved to Anchorage in 1976 and to Washington state in 1992, but he still has plenty of friends in Juneau. He's been listed on the JDHSGrads Web site for six years.

"Last week (through a listing on JDHSGrads.com) I got a hold of a guy I hadn't heard from in 20 years," Randall said of Mike Bargain, who lives in Seattle. "I got in touch with him. I hope to get together with him."

As people get older they start to think about their high school classmates, said Randall, who is 51.

"I wouldn't want to leave this Earth without saying at least 'hi.' It's kind of fun to see what people are doing with their lives," he said.

Soza, Class of 1998, describes himself as a nerd and offers that as his motivation for running the Web site, which costs him about $70 a month for the Internet address. His paying job is working on contracts for the state Department of Administration. The Web site is a labor of nerd love.

Recently he began posting a few ads for other companies on the site, for which he has received all of 13 cents in royalties. "Doing pretty good," he commented and smiled.

Soza also has an online store of objects such as shirts and mugs with the JDHSGrads logo on them. He contracts with a company to produce them as needed.

"I've sold four things in the year it's been on there, and I've made a dollar-fifty, I think," he said. "It's a low return, but it's pretty fun to do."

It takes Soza five to 10 hours a week to maintain the site, which gets about 50 hits a day, he said. It has about 1,470 members and adds 30 to 40 a month as people hear about it from word of mouth or by searching for Juneau sites on the Internet, he said. Only about a third of the members live in Alaska.

JDHS class reunion

For all classes

Deadline to register: June 2.

Deadline to order T-shirts: May 1.

Costs: $50 for reunion, $15 for T-shirt, $80 for cruise.

For forms: www.JDHSGrads.com under reunions.

Contacts: Betty (West) Miller at NorBet036@aol.com and (907) 364-2937; Elaine (Bland) Long at buzzeel@hotmail.com and (907) 586-3049; Burnetta (West) Ooley at Bernie 426@aol.com and (907) 364-2849. Use "all class reunion" in an e-mail's subject line.

"I just went and I looked up Juneau High School (on the Internet)," said Martha (Stone) Peters, Class of 1997, who lives in San Jose, Calif., with her Air Force husband and a daughter.

She's heard from one classmate through the Web site, a boy she worked with at a grocery store and who has since been in the Army and undergone training to be a state trooper.

"As time goes by, you just reflect on your childhood and your memories," Peters said. "You figure these people are part of your childhood. They grew up with you. They know what it's like."

JDHS's official Web site, www.jsd.k12.ak.us/jdhs/index.html, includes a page for alumni. Graduates can list their names and e-mail and regular addresses. The page also provides information about reunions.

But it doesn't provide a forum, as Soza's site does. And Soza doesn't charge people to leave messages, as do national Web sites such as classmates.com.

If you don't remember what high school was like, Soza's site will refresh your memory. One man, a 1982 graduate who was an exchange student from Germany, left a plaintive message: "Does anybody remember me?" Another man said Juneau girls are cool, "except that crazy girl on the bus with the mustache."

Another forum member prompted fond memories: "Remember when those crazy kids shaved '1998' into Mac the bear's ass? That was great."

Betty (West) Miller, who is helping to organize an all-class reunion set for July 2-3 this year, said Soza's Web site has been useful. He offers viewers a page he made about reunions, including a way to download a registration packet.

Miller, Class of 1955, has never met Soza. She knows him only through the computer.

"From what I've seen, he's doing a wonderful job spreading the word about our all-class reunion," she said.

Before Soza posted information about the reunion, Miller reached people by e-mail if she happened to know addresses. "Otherwise, it was just snail mail and postage," she said.

The JDHSGrads Web site was begun by Michael Anderson, a 1997 graduate who wanted a free alternative to national Web sites for classmates, Soza said. Soza helped Anderson run the site for a while.

"I started learning Web design and thought it would kind of be a cool project," said Soza, who is self-taught on the computer.

Soza continued the Web site after Anderson's death in late 2002.

"All of my friends I had in high school have signed up on here," Soza said. "They've all gone off to college. It's kind of nice to have their e-mail address handy."

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.

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