Canyon Springs High School. Moreno Valley, California. It’s 2004, and it’s my first day of sophomore year. I look at my class schedule and noticed my next class is a graphic design class with a teacher named Necochea.
I walked into the classroom, which at the time was located in the D-Wing, and noticed the Mac computers. That immediately caught my attention because I was really getting into computers at the time. I see a young man standing by his desk reading some sheets. I assumed this guy must’ve been the teacher. I approached him and completely butchered his name. “Hi. Are you Mr. Neco…Necocheeaayyee….Neco….chiiiaahh? Neco….Neco?? ”
He just stood there with a smirk on his face and watched me struggling with his last name. He finally said, in his friendly voice, that his name is “Mr. Necochea (Neh-coh-shay-ah)” Immediately, when I noticed other students we simply calling him Ben, I started calling him by his first name as well. The rest is all history.
Ben, along with Annette Schiebout, Bill Bourbonnais, and Will Salley were Canyon Springs’ teachers who formed The Academy of Creative Technologies, or ACT. At the time, Don Miller was the director of ACT and was also my TV Productions and Humanities teacher. These five individuals, during my time at Canyon Springs High School, formed like Voltron and built something very special.
Essentially, ACT is a school-within-a-school. Students who have an interest in the creative arts are recruited during their freshman year. It is a 3-year program (grades 10-12) with classes that consists of graphic design, English, Print Graphics, Photography, and Film/Video. During my time, these classes were taught by Ben, Schiebout, Bourbonnais, Salley and Miller.
Fast-forward over 10 years later. Ben is holding the annual ACT Meet, Greet, and Eat (back in my day we simply called it the ACT barbeque). Before I even walk into the classroom, I spot Annette Schiebout and my heart skipped a beat. I haven’t seen her since I graduated! It was an absolute joy seeing her again. We gave each other epic bear hugs!
I spot Luis, Sabrina and a dude I just met named David, who’s apparently been a supporter of Axial Skeleton for some time (thanks bro!).
I reunite with Ben after a few years. I’m glad he decided to stick with the beard. We catch up and ate some delicious raison cookies (seriously, where’d you get them?). Bourbonnais and I spot each other and also gave an epic bear hug to one another.
After saying “hello” to some familiar faces, Ben introduced me to some of his current shining stars. They showed me the designs to their new T-Shirts. They look awesome and I can’t wait to sport it. A lot has changed around the classroom and within the Academy. I had the pleasure to meet new staff members; they seem really cool! Oh, and there were tacos!
I was beginning to feel old being around these new Aesthetic Revolutionaries, but I was very glad to see that the atmosphere hasn’t changed. The nostalgia was really hitting me! A lot of the new students reminded me of some of my fellow students back in the day. The ones who were very passionate about their work, not the slackers. However, these youngsters have produced very impressive work and I’m excited to see more. I encourage any current ACT student who is reading this to continue with this program. It is an excellent way to get introduced to not just digital arts, but art itself. Whether you have an interest in design, creative writing, or filmmaking, keep going! Mold your skills, and never stop. It truly is an incredible learning experience.
Ben, Schiebout, and Bourb are still some of the coolest and funniest people I’ve known. It was great seeing that trio again. I’m glad they decided to never stop calling me “Avocado”. It’s been my nickname since ’04. All what was missing, for me, was Miller. But I’m sure he’s enjoying a Phillip-less life 😉
Thanks for having me over, Ben. And a reunion is definitely in order.
Written by: Phillip Acevedo