December 22, 2011 5:07:00 PM
By ELLEN CIURCZAK
BROOKLYN -- Forrest County Agricultural High School is celebrating a century of history.
Students, alumni, current and former teachers, and past and present school board members all gathered at the school recently to mark its 100-year anniversary.
"I think (this) is a monumental occasion," said Superintendent Elizabeth Yankay. "We look forward to the next 100 years."
School board member Debbie Burt graduated from FCAHS in 1972. She said 18 members of her immediate and extended family also attended the school.
"This is a particular pleasure for me to be here on the 100th anniversary," she said. "This school is a very special place."
Burt attended FCAHS when students still lived in dormitories on campus. She lived in the girl's dorm for six months.
She said although the campus is non-residential now, not much else has changed.
"The thing that's the same is the strong family and moral values, and (the faculty and administration) stand up for individual students," Burt said. "And this school is still focused on agriculture."
The school has about 600 students.
At an anniversary assembly, junior class president Madison Peyton took attendees on a trip down memory lane, with a slide show of historic photographs.
It was on Aug. 29, 1911, that the Forest County School Board voted to establish an agricultural high school in the county.
On Dec. 5 that same year, Brooklyn was chosen as the site of the school, above Maxie, Hattiesburg and Eatonville.
By 1912, construction was under way on an administration building and two dormitories. The first school session began in the fall of that year.
There were 25 boarders and 60 local students. Math, geography, English, music and manual training were the subjects the students took.
FCAHS had its first graduating class in 1914. One student, George McDonald, graduated.
This year, the graduating class consists of about 130 students.
Peyton said she is proud to attend a school with such a long history.
"I think it's really amazing that we've been like this for so long," she said. "Everybody around here doesn't know what we have.
"It feels kind of cool. Not many schools can say they've been around for 100 years."
Student council president Landon Dale said he at first felt overwhelmed by the thought of 100 years at the school, but now found it "amazing."
"I've learned we have a history that very few schools here in the state of Mississippi have," he said.
Helen Barnes taught at the school from 1959 to 1989. She said she especially remembered the Central American students who came to board at the school.
Barnes said she had spoken to one of her old students from El Salvador.
"We were one big family," she said. "This school is so rich in beautiful history. This (anniversary) is a milestone that everybody should know about."
When the school first opened in 1912, the stated purpose was to offer "boys and girls such training as will prepare them to be happy and useful citizens, community builders and homemakers."
One hundred years later, Peyton said the stated mission was the same.
"To develop men and women fitted for lives they were to live with the ability to enjoy them to the fullest extent," she said, just as in the old days.
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