An original Forest Park High Panthers gym bag from the 1960s was the first piece of memorabilia in a long timeline display at the school Saturday showcasing school items, uniforms and yearbooks from the past. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)
FOREST PARK — They trickled in from the rain and mist to “cheer the wine and gold.”
Alumni of practically all ages, races and persuasions gathered in the cafeteria at Forest Park High to celebrate the school’s history and campaign for its future.
“It’s raining sunshine here,” declared Superintendent Luvenia Jackson, rousing the crowd.
This was April 19, during the “Reconnect, Renew and Reestablish” grand re-opening for the newly-renovated Forest Park High. The event included state legislators, school board members, city officials and community leaders.
Bonnie Hodgekinson, a paraprofessional at the school, beamed with pride during the event marking more than six decades of modern-day history. She and her husband, Harold, have been Forest Park residents for the past 36 years.
They listened as speakers took turns on the microphone.
Principal Derrick Manning spoke to the school’s objectives to reach students individually to help them excel academically and prepare them to enter a world their adult counterparts and fellow Panthers already know.
“Our goal is to try to take each individual student from where they are,” said Manning.
Jackson emphasized the role community plays in student achievement.
“This is all about unity,” said Jackson. “This building is only as good as the people in it.
“All these people that have gone on before us, paved the way,” she continued.
The school’s band, orchestra, chorus, varsity cheerleaders and Air Force JROTC color guard performed during the event, also supported by such school clubs as Yearbook and School Council.
School board member Michael King spoke as the cafeteria filled with Forest Park residents and alumni taking refuge from the rain to see their revamped schoolhouse.
He turned his attention from the adult audience and to students in the band, orchestra and choir at the side.
“The greater the investment, the higher the expectation for student achievement,” said King.
State Rep. Kiesha Waites (District 60), whose district includes Forest Park, spoke as well.
“I think we are what we are because you demand excellence,” said Waites. “One day you will be sitting here and you will be leading our state and the world.”
State Rep. Valencia Stovall (District 74), who has a junior at Forest Park High, read a resolution denoting Saturday’s celebration.
Forest Park, she said, lays claim to opening Clayton County’s first high school in 1908. The modern-day Forest Park High was built at Phillips Drive in 1962.
Tammy Barton of the Forest Park High alumni group announced a $500 alumni scholarship for seniors. The group hosted a 50-50 raffle to collect money for its scholarship fund officials expect will be a program henceforth.
Barton and many of Saturday’s speakers were part of a 20-member executive planning committee that organized the celebrations, which included a program, ribbon cutting and tour of the building and archives.