Summer Reunion Story

June 21, 2011

It had been 40 years, so about 1/4 of our class gathered at the Frank M. Jarman American Legion Post just outside of town for our high school reunion. The excitement had been building, due to Facebook posts, chats, planning meetings and pre-parties, and the evening had finally come. It was the time on the program for the Open Mic Opportunity and Vanessa came from the back of the room to take her turn. With a broad smile and a warmth in her manner she said, “We were the class that was not only the last, but the first….” She was glowing as she was speaking.

Vanessa, along with some other former brave, black Garnett students, had entered CHS in 7th grade, having been a part of the first classmates to integrate into the formerly all-white schools in the county. Since we were the last class to graduate from CHS just 6 years later, we were the class that had come full-circle.

I didn’t go to CHS until 9th grade, and that was also due to integration and the changing of the school zone boundary lines. Galena was the school that I had attended prior to that, from grades 1 through 8, and I remember the first black student in our school. I’m not sure whose idea it was to put just one boy in an all-white school (and maybe my memory is incorrect about there being a single black student, but I cannot remember any other student that year but that one boy who I think was in the 11th grade), but even as an 8th grader, I knew that wasn’t right. I knew nothing about differences, really, or about black history or about black anything until I went to 9th grade at CHS and was in the same classes with Vanessa, Annie, Rita, Jackie, Priscilla, Diane, Delores and others; (which was when I learned that we were all the same) but I knew that boy must’ve had a hard time being all by himself. I remember thinking that it must be awfully hard for him, and that he must’ve felt bad. I knew that I would’ve and I just couldn’t imagine how he could do it. I don’t remember his name; he was a lot older than I and it has been a long time. But I knew that Vanessa would’ve known how he felt. So as I stood next to her the other night hearing the pride in her voice, I was proud right along with her to have been a part of it all.

Thank you, Vanessa, and thank you to all of you who had to fight a fight that we white students could not even imagine. You are our heroes and we’re proud to call you friends and fellow alumni.



  1. Donna says:

    Very well said, Cheryl.

Location, Location, Location.

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