Little Rock (KATV) — The Horace Mann Senior High School Transitional Class of 1972 was the last high school class before being turned into a middle school due to desegregation. Even though the 183 students never got a chance to graduate from their school and were dispersed to other high schools in the city, they have remained in touch with each other. More than that, they've chosen to do good despite the adversity they faced.
Brenda Gilbert says at the time, it was tough their junior class, set to graduate in 1972, was forced to go to other schools for their senior year.
"It was devastating to us because we grew up in neighborhoods where everybody went to Horace Mann,” Gilbert said.
The 1972 class were dispersed. Taking long bus rides to different, mostly white schools in the district.
Reginald Henderson says even though it was challenging, they learned lessons.
"It taught us about transformation. It taught us about facing adversity. Actually it made us strong,” Henderson said.
Carolyn Pledger-Brooks says they've stayed in contact after all these years.
"Even though we had to leave, we still stayed in contact with each other and we just had that strong bond because some of us had been in school from elementary school, junior high school and then Horace Mann, we were just looking forward to our senior year, being seniors at Horace Mann,” she said.
The group has remained friends and during their times of reunion they turned the challenges they faced into something good. They started an annual scholarship awards program named in honor of their former principal. It's the Edwin L. Hawkins "I Challenge You" scholarships.
"He was always saying ‘I challenge you.’ And so that's what we've been doing ever since then. Challenging ourselves to do the very best and that's what he instilled in us at that time,” she said.
Raising thousands over the years for college scholarships for students in the Little Rock School District.
For their 50th reunion, they decided they wanted to raise $50,000 dollars in scholarships, which was a goal they met. In the words of their principal, a legacy and a lesson they want students now to take with them.
"I challenge you to follow this class and see what's next,” Henderson said.
If you'd like to donate to their scholarship fund, they are a non-profit. You can go to hmtc72.org.
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