Members of the Howard High School Alumni Association are collaborating with Habitat for Humanity Georgetown County and the United Nations Georgetown RISE to create a heritage center in the former lunchroom of the school. This project, anticipating completion in Aug., will serve as a community hub for events on the West End in addition to displaying the rich heritage of the neighborhood in one location.
After the front room is complete, the alumni association plans to create an afterschool program to support educational opportunities on the West End.
The project was largely inspired by contributions of the Committee for African American Historical Observances (CAAHO) to preserve the memory of Georgetown’s African American leaders.
Janette Beacotte-Graham, president of the alumni association said, “Having left Georgetown for 40 years, I was not aware of the things that had been accomplished (by the individuals recognized as Dreamkeepers). The first time I walked into the building I had the overwhelming feeling of being in the middle of something that was great at one time. Once we acquired the building, my very first thought was once we got the structural part of the building secure that that we would use the front room as it was: to keep the knowledge and heritage that was already there. We wanted to let all of Georgetown know what have been accomplished by these two organizations over the years, especially depicting the West End and its great influence in the history of Georgetown.”
The scope of this project stretched beyond CAAHO and the alumni association to catch the attention of Habitat for Humanity of Georgetown County. Laura Gassler, Executive Director, saw the potential for collaboration to kick off the nonprofit’s participation in Georgetown’s West End revitalization program.
“After years of only building new homes for families, Habitat for Humanity International now endorses neighborhood repair and revitalization programs,” Gassler said. “As Habitat Georgetown makes their final plans for their repair program, what better way of showing support for the community than to assist in the revitalization of one of the neighborhood landmarks. In speaking with Howard’s alumni, it became evident that adding a heritage center to the building was a win for everyone, a way for Howard graduates to connect and the youth to better understand the history of their neighborhood.”
Alumni of Howard High School have already donated their time and resources into ensuring the project’s success. Members of the alumni association, such as Naomi Graham-Emily, emphasized the need for a heritage center in the West End.
“What I will say is that with any community growth, knowledge of one’s heritage is always going to be affected by generational gaps and newcomers to the area,” Graham-Emily said. “Therefore, I feel that it is a must that a center such as the West End heritage project be established to ensure that the impact of its community leaders will be available for everyone to learn about, including those who are too young or too old to recall and those yet to come.”
Other members, such as Barbara Singleton, shared her vision for the center as a long-term investment. “t is my hope that the visitors that walk through this center see their (West End families) ingenuity and appreciate how the West End contributed to the betterment of Georgetown,” Singleton said.
Mary Harrison also emphasized that, “The West End’s accomplishments and history, if made known to the younger generation, will increase morale and encourage them that they too will be able to accomplish the game,” Harrison said.
Project coordinator and UN Georgetown RISE intern, Julie Emory, concurred on the viability of a heritage center on the West End.
“Educational opportunities should not be limited by zip code or income level,” Emory said. “Every child regardless of where they live should have the resources to succeed and be proud of where they came from. After the initial project is finished, I am extremely hopeful for future extracurricular activities to stimulate further youth engagement on the West End.”
Singleton expanded on potential extracurricular activities at the center.
“This center will also be a site for children to come and learn basic Spanish, coding or whatever new technological development there is because the Howard High School Alumni Association’s mission has always been education first,” Singleton said.
With a legacy including several Harvard University graduates, it is fair to say that Howard is still committed to the highest standard of excellence.
If you would like to contribute yearbooks, photographs or an interview for the center, please contact Janette Becoate-Graham (email@example.com) or Julie Emory (Dreamkeepers.firstname.lastname@example.org) or call 843-546-5685 extension 2.