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Booker T. Washington celebrates 100 years of educating Eastside students

The event had a special focus on students who attended back in the 60s and 70s.
Published: Oct. 2, 2021 at 11:22 PM CDT
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WICHITA FALLS, Texas (KAUZ) -The alumni of Booker T. Washington Schools in Wichita Falls gathered together in the school auditorium to celebrate 100 years of history.

This morning those former Leopards started the journey down Harding Street together. It’s a journey many of them have been taking since they were teenagers.

Once they got to the front steps of the school, they began belting out chants and the school song.

“We received our proclamation for being 100 years old and we didn’t get to do it last year because of COVID. Then since our reunion came up we didn’t get to have last year either, so we combined it all together,” said Gwendolyn Mitchell President of the Booker T. Washington Schools Alumni Association.

It was indeed a day that commemorated 100 years of Eastside history for students who attended the school back in the 60′s and 70′s.

“This building was established in 1963 and my class of 1967. So we were the first freshman class to come into this building and the first graduating class,” said Diann Scroggins alumna of Booker T. Washington.

“In the spring of 1969 we were advised that the Booker T. Washington High School would be closed and that the school would be divided into three zones. So we would have to go to Hirschi, Rider and Wichita Falls High, but our class that had been together for 11 years would now be separated,” said Van Sims alumni of Booker T. Washington Schools.

“From my freshman year to my junior year, this school gave us a really great foundation. It gave us the ability to be able to speak up, be heard and stand up for ourselves,” said Mitchell.

However little did they know they would be at the forefront of educational history.

“We finally came to the realization that we were trailblazers for desegregation of schools by the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” said Sims.

Over the last 100 years, the Booker T. Washington School has undergone many changes. It’s added new buildings, locations and even changed its name. Today it serves as an elementary school and is the only school on the east side of Wichita Falls. Residents say a lack of schools and resources has plagued and crippled the community for years.

“We had our own identity. We had our football team and basketball team and we were proud of our community. We also had dentist and doctors offices over on the East side. We were self-contained and self-sufficient, but when you take away schools your community dies,” said Scroggins.

A battle they will continue to fight but right now, they chose to just enjoy the company of their classmates.

“When you get to be 68 and 69, the window of opportunity is closing. So it’s a joyous occasion this weekend for the class of 1970 that never graduated from Booker T. Washington,” said Sims.

The alumni also had their class reunion this weekend, to continue a celebration of friendship and a legacy that they plan to keep in the Eastside community forever.

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