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Community returns to celebrate Forest Park High

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)

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)

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Members of the Forest Park community joined hands and bowed their heads for a moment or prayer led by Dr. Wesley Greene of Amazing Grace World Outreach Church. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Slowed by inclement weather, a late-arriving crowd packed into the Forest Park High cafeteria Saturday to celebrate the school’s ‘Reconnect, Renew and Reestablish’ ceremonies coinciding with end of most of the renovation work done on campus. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Trombonists in the Forest Park High band played arrangement preceding and following Saturday's grand re-opening ceremony. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Young violinists accompany the Forest Park High band and chorus, playing an arrangement of the National Anthem as part of the opening ceremonies of Saturday’s ‘Reconnect, Renew and Reestablish’ event. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Forest Park High paraprofessional Bonnie Hodgkinson and her husband, Harold, took part in the Reconnect, Renew and Reestablish event at the school Saturday. The couple has been Forest Park residents 36 years. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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The Forest Park High choir sings a selection during Saturday's grand re-opening ceremony at the newly renovated high school. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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A majorette's uniform dating back to the late 60s and early 70s was among items on a timeline display at Forest Park High's grand re-opening Saturday.

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Clarinetists and saxophones accompanied the full band at Forest Park High's grand re-opening Saturday. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Forest Park High's string orchestra was featured during Satuday's grand re-opening ceremony, where several state and local officials spoke about the school's history and its future. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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The varsity cheerleading squad represented a modern-day Forest Park High pride that dates back to 60s. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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As in encounters at homecomings and class reunions, visitors congregated in front a long display of school memorabilia and greeted one another with class years and experiences they remember from their days at Forest Park High. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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The Forest Park High Air Force JROTC performed the presentation of colors during the school's grand re-opening Saturday. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Statuettes of a high school football player and cheerleader decorated a table display for Forest Park High students and alumni to reflect on their school pride at a Reconnect, Renew and Reestablish event Saturday. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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An early 70s sequin majorette uniform and football team photograph add to a memorabilia collection spanning the decades at Forest Park High. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Cap and gowns mark a destination for most high schoolers and a fond memory for alumni of Forest Park High. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Music and cheers filled the space, reminding visitors and alumni about their past experiences at Forest Park High. (Staff Photo: Johnny Jackson)

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Major construction at Forest Park High was completed this winter with some rough-in projects left. But officials celebrated the more than $27 million in renovations with a grand re-opening Saturday. (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.