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City of Duluth

Duluth High School Celebrates 65th Anniversary

When Glenda Anglin Crissey and Nancy Corley Rich graduated from Duluth High School, they were among 59 students.

“Everybody knew everyone,” said Rich, although she and Crissey had been best friends since the second grade.

“We were all in one building,” said Crissey, pointing toward a central building that is the oldest on the campus. “This is almost like a college campus now.”

The two women graduated in 1968, and although they moved out of the area, Georgia was always on their minds. They eventually found themselves back in the Peach State–not far from the farm community where they grew up.

“It’s changed so much you’d hardly believe we thought of Atlanta as being so far away,” said Annette Knox Summerour, Class of ’66.

65 years in the making

The women joined a large group of Duluth High Alumni as well as present students, parents, elected officials, community stakeholders and friends of the school to celebrate its 65th anniversary.

Besides the additional structures, one of the most recognizable changes is the diversity among the students.

“If you were here a long time ago, the [demographic] numbers were probably a little bit different,” said Principal Eric Davidson.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about half of Duluth High students are Hispanic, about one-fourth are Black, about an eighth are white and an eighth are Asian.

“It is a huge benefit to students to have exposure to people from cultures different from theirs when they get out into the workforce and try to interact with businesses,” said Davidson.

Moving forward

Although the night was dedicated to looking at the past, Davidson emphasized Duluth High’s future.

“Someone was asking me earlier. ‘What would you want us to look like in a few years?’ and I would say I would like to continue on a path of helping our students understand the value of being able to interact with and respect people who are not like you,” said Davidson.

He added that Duluth High has always had a family atmosphere and continues to work toward preparing students for whatever the future holds.

Cheers for excellence

Duluth City Councilwoman Shenée Johnson Holloway, a long-time resident of Duluth, is a coordinator for family engagement with Gwinnett County Public Schools.

She was also an English/language arts teacher at Duluth High School. She reflected on the richness of the memories and achievements that characterize the legacy of an institution so beloved.

“To the staff who dedicated their time, talent and passion to nurturing the next generation of leaders, I send my sincerest gratitude,” said Holloway.

“Your unwavering commitment to academic excellence, coupled with your boundless passion and dedication, have laid the foundation of success for generations of students,” she added.

She also thanked the alumni for being the “living embodiment of Duluth High’s legacy.”

“As you soar to new heights, may you always carry the spirit of resilience, integrity and community that is the essence of Wildcat Nation,” she continued.

As a former announcer for school basketball games, Holloway used her sportscaster voice to add to the celebration.

“And now give it up for your Duluth Wildcats as they celebrate 65 years. But remember, if you’re not cheering for the Wildcats, you’re in the wrong gym!” she cheered.

Duluth High embodies community

Duluth Mayor Greg Whitlock is such a fan of Duluth High that he decided that his daughter had to attend, even though she’s zoned for Peachtree Ridge.

Not to take anything away from the other school, Whitlock said he wanted his child to bask in the love that every student feels at Duluth High.

“We know that raising one or two children is difficult,” he said. Just imagine 25 to 30 students in six classes, and you are helping raise those children.”

Whitlock’s son was in 10th grade when his daughter was born, so he feels like he has two “only” children. One of the most consistent things in their lives was their experiences at Duluth High School.

“Our goal is for our children to love the community so much that they want to come back,” said Whitlock. “We see that a lot here. The memories that they have and the love that they felt bring them back. … It’s not that way everywhere.”

Whitlock added that the city sees itself as a partner with the school, and this symbiosis has led to decades of greatness. With that, he presented a proclamation declaring March 15, 2024, Duluth High School Day in the city of Duluth.

‘Good schools make good communities’

Nancy Harris, former Duluth mayor (2008 to 2013), is also a Duluth High alum. She graduated in 1972 and said the school had about 500 students at the time, and the diversity was between Baptists and Methodists.

“Diversity now is so rich and beautiful, and I love this changing world,” she said.

Harris was the principal of Suwanee Elementary in the mid-90s when Gwinnett County began growing at an incredible pace. She asked her parents a few times why they moved there, and every response was “for the good schools.”

She recalled that the school system’s motto at the time was “Good schools make good communities.”

Harris added that Duluth wasn’t just a good community for students and their families, it also attracted good teachers. She said Davidson told her that “people want to teach at Duluth High School” even though they have other options.

“Now, when my dad was superintendent (B.B. Harris 1957 to 1967), I remember the struggle to get teachers to come to Duluth,” she said, adding that many had never heard of Duluth and the city had few apartments and little temporary housing.

A lot has changed since then, she said, adding that education is critical to economic stability.

“We really need to pay attention to our schools right now, ladies and gentlemen, if we want Gwinnett and Duluth to remain strong economically,” she said. “It is all of our responsibility to take care of our schools.”

She concluded by encouraging everyone to continue paying attention to what’s happening at the schools and keep Duluth High the best in Gwinnett County.

Photo caption: Duluth High School’s 65th-anniversary celebration // Photos by George Hunter

Arlinda Smith Broady is part of the Boomerang Generation of Blacks that moved back to the South after their ancestors moved North. With approximately three decades of journalism experience (she doesn't look it), she's worked in tiny, minority-based newsrooms to major metropolitans. At every endeavor she brings professionalism, passion, pluck, and the desire to spread the news to the people.

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