Any young person living on Lulu Island in the early 1900s who wanted to continue from one of the community's four elementary schools to high school had to travel across the river either to Vancouver or New Westminster in order to complete a graduation diploma. The history of high school in Richmond goes back to 1908, when a four-room school house was built at Bridgeport with the intent that the two rooms on the second level would eventually be used for Grades 10 and 11 students in the years to come. To accommodate the small number of students who wanted to finish high school instead of going off to work, Bridgeport School operated as a combined elementary and high school from 1910 to 1927 and remained an elementary school until 1980. In 1927, Richmond High School was the municipality’s first dedicated high school and the building was originally located at the corner of Cambie and Sexsmith Roads (see photo on right). Miss I.E. Clemens moved over from Bridgeport School and was the principal during the first year and then for the next 31 years the school was led by principal Allan Roy MacNeill. A.R. MacNeill Secondary School in East Richmond was opened in 2003 and named after Richmond High's longest serving principal. (You can see a list of all Richmond Secondary School principals here). The first matriculation (graduation was originally after Grade 11) class from Richmond High School included 17 students in 1928.
As the area steadily grew from the mostly rural farming and fishing community of Lulu Island to the larger cosmopolitan City of Richmond, the school has also changed, evolved and undergone many structural and organizational changes. From 1937 until 1958, Grades 8 and 9 students were added and the name was changed to Richmond Junior and Senior Secondary School. In 1952 the school moved to its current location at the intersection of Foster Road, now called Minoru Boulevard, and Granville Avenue in central Richmond and the original building became H.J. Cambie Junior Secondary School. (photo on left is a school crest from 1937 and photo below right is old RHS, at its current location in 1953). From 1958 to 1995 the school was home to students in Grades 11 and 12 only and was known as Richmond Senior Secondary School but the students, staff and community simply called the school 'Richmond High'. In 1996, all high schools in Richmond were reconfigured to Grades 8 to 12 schools and Richmond High became Richmond Secondary School. In the early 2000s the school building was replaced with an expanded, state-of-the-art facility, including an artificial turf field and reopened to students on January 5, 2004. All of the senior matriculation and graduation class composite photographs from 1928 to today hang with honour in the halls of the school.
The primary goal of schools is nurturing intellectual development through critical and creative thinking and communication skills and learning success for all students. The school established renowned traditions of academic excellence and every year, Richmond High students consistently achieved amongst the very highest in the province in Provincial Exams and each year scores of students were awarded Ministry of Education and post-secondary scholarships. Since 1984, the school has also been an I.B. World School and has offered the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme for students in Grades 11 and 12. This is a challenging, comprehensive educational program and Richmond Secondary is the only school in the District to offer the I.B. diploma. Several thousand students have attained this impressive international distinction. Since 1928, more than 25,000 Richmond Secondary School graduates have gone on to live fulfilling and successful lives.
Just as important, Richmond High students have also excelled in many creative and technical programs, extracurricular teams and clubs and socially responsible endeavours. Musical performances are a big part of the school experience, including award winning concert bands, choirs and jazz bands. Live theatre, plays and musicals have been presented for decades. The first Richmond yearbook was published in 1940 and the complete collection of old yearbooks is available in the current school library. More than nine decades of clubs and elective courses provided thousands of students with unique ways to learn and be involved. Richmond’s professional culinary arts, automotive, visual arts, digital media and photography classes saw students become chefs, create portfolios and troubleshoot and rebuild engines. A wide variety of extracurricular opportunities included student councils, grad committees, school newspapers, dance clubs, championship cheerleader squads, chess clubs, U.N. clubs, social justice and multicultural clubs, computer & web site clubs and volunteer groups all helped give students a sense of belonging and purpose. (As early as the 1930s, students achieving distinction in academics, athletics, arts or service could receive an R letter crest to display proudly on their letterman sweater). RHS students have been involved in exciting travel opportunities and with many charitable and community events. It was a 25-year tradition at Richmond to raise funds and provide technical expertise to assist with humanitarian projects in developing nations and many student groups have travelled all over the world as part of the successful Global Perspectives program. The first trip was to Ecuador in 1995, followed by student trips to Vietnam, Guatemala, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Dominican Republic, Philippines, Cuba, Peru, Cambodia, Laos, Morocco, Paraguay, Mongolia, Fiji, Botswana, Samoa, Bhutan, Jamaica, India, Tonga and Chile as well as 'grad trips' to Laos and Nigeria.
The history of the school includes a very proud tradition in athletics and student-athletes have represented Richmond High in competitions ever since the doors opened in 1927. In 1970, the school adopted the name Richmond Colts and this has been a well respected name in B.C. School Sports ever since. The Colts have won no less than 17 B.C. Championship titles in a variety of sports. Often known as the "Super Colts", the senior boys' basketball team dominated the 1980s and early 1990s and won the provincial championship banner a record five times and made the B.C. championship final game an amazing ten times. The senior girls' basketball and volleyball teams also enjoyed years of great success, competing at the B.C. tournament many years in a row and capturing the B.C. championship title in 1990-1991 (basketball) and 1992-1993 and 1994-1995 (volleyball). The Colts football program was a powerhouse for many years and the team competed in the top tier B.C. title game six times, winning the provincial championship title four times, including 1976-1977 and then three in a row in 1996, 1997 and 1998. Similarly, the Colts have won two B.C. championships in senior boys' soccer in 1989-1990 and 1995-1996 and twice in junior boys’ basketball in 1995-1996 and 1997-1998. Colts athletics has generated a lot of school pride and positive energy and from the 1960s to the 1990s, the school's most spirited competition was with their crosstown rivals the Steveston Packers (became Steveston-London Secondary School in 2007) and football, basketball and all games between the two senior high schools always drew standing-room only crowds, often including thousands of enthusiastic students, parents and alumni. Similarly, bus loads of RHS supporters, often with their faces painted maroon and white, cheered on the Colts at many provincial championships. Many former Colts student-athletes went on to play for B.C. and Canada, at the elite level in the NCAA, USports, and B.C. colleges, as well as professionally in Europe, in the CFL and even in the NFL. Current Colts student-athletes continue to excel in basketball (2015 and 2019 senior boys' RSSAA champions), volleyball, badminton, tennis, ultimate (2015 B.C. High School Tier II provincial champions) and many other sports and RHS teams continue to compete for RSSAA, Vancouver and District, Lower Mainland and provincial titles. Most importantly, all of our student-athletes understand this tremendous legacy and know that they are expected to represent the Richmond Colts with dedication, skill, respect, sportsmanship and class, inside and outside of the classroom, always.
The school has developed strong connections to the local community and thousands of people growing up in Richmond have built deep attachments to Richmond High and the Richmond Colts for over 90 years. Parents were active partners, from the charter members of the Richmond High Parent-Teacher Association to the tremendous support given today by parents in Parent Advisory Council and Dry After Grad. Parental involvement and support helps make Richmond Secondary a better place to learn and to work. The Richmond High School Alumni Association was formed in 1988 by a group of alumni during the 60th anniversary celebrations of the school. Since this time, the RHS Alumni has donated over $650,000 to the school in scholarships, athletics, music, drama, clubs, technology, dry after grad and supporting the lunch program, Cinderella project, Colt daycare and many other areas. The Board of Directors volunteer their time to apply for and manage provincial gaming funds, organize community and fundraising events and they continue to support Richmond High and the Alumni Association on behalf of all RHS grads. Sustaining positive connections with our community is important and for over 45 years, the school has hosted an annual "Richmond Secondary Community Christmas Luncheon" in early December that is open to members of the wider community and our guests enjoy a traditional Christmas meal with all the trimmings prepared by our professional Cook Training students, and the event raises funds for both local and global charitable organizations. Similarly, each May the RSS Alumni Association hosts an "Alumni Luncheon" at the school and we welcome back former students and staff from many different decades.
We are very proud of the long history of Richmond High and the great traditions of academic and extracurricular excellence serve as a solid foundation for our school. As we progress into the 21st century, we will continue to evolve and adapt to create opportunities that will best prepare Richmond Secondary School students for success in an ever changing world. Great traditions began with the first ever RHS graduating class in 1928 and building on this legacy of excellence is the responsibility of all members of our community.
“To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.”
Once a Colt, Always a Colt.
Fac Tuum Optimum - Do Your Best.