It’s often said that a public school is the pillar of a community. That has never been more true than in Hawthorne, FL. With a city-wide population of just over 1,400, Hawthorne is the very definition of “small town.”
The city’s two public schools (Shell Elementary and Hawthorne Middle/High) are deeply rooted in its very core. In many cases, the schools are responsible for educating third and fourth generations of families, many of whom still live in the area. Students not only go to school together, but live in the same community, go to the same churches and shop at the same grocery stores. In addition to serving as a place to learn, the schools are often a second home to many, providing socializing, sports and mentoring.
This sense of community may come to a screeching halt if the middle/high school closes its doors in the coming year. A recent bill passed by the Florida legislature (known as HB7069) provides the state with the ability to close a school if its school grade is lower than a “C” for multiple years. Many have questioned the validity of the school grading system, especially when using it for high stakes decisions such as closing schools. Read more about the school grading system.
To show support in keeping the school open, some alumni recently shared their (brief) stories* in the Facebook group: HHS Reunited (and in subsequent Facebook posts). Here’s a glimpse into some of their lives, accomplishments, and just how far this school’s roots have spread.
Tashun Anderson Sr., c/o ’92
20 years in the Navy… retired
Sara Bristow Andino, c/o ’95
AA from Santa Fe, BA from UF in Elementary Education, and Masters from UWF in Educational Leadership.
Charlene Batton Beebe, c/o 1991
Graduated from UF in 4 years, Agriscience teacher, currently working on my Masters. Also help my husband run a family business.
Haley Benefield, c/o ’13
AA in Nursing and Certified Surgical Technologist.
Judy Miller Blanton, c/o ’87
I am the director of a Early Childcare Center. I have my Director’s credential and a National CDA. I am also a early childhood teacher at this center. I am currently finishing up my AS degree in early childhood education. I have worked in this field for 20 plus years. This is largely in part from my years at Hawthorne High/Middle School where I was a part of the Future Educators of America and also had awesome role models at my school.
April Brown, c/o ’94
I have a BM in Music Education from Valdosta State University and a MA in Intercultural Studies from Asbury Theological Seminary. I taught music for many years in Alachua County and it was some of my best teaching years! I was honored to earn Teacher of Year twice and was a District Teacher of the Year Finalist. I have spent most of my career in education. Recently, I was on staff as Director of Children’s Worship at Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. After a move to Savannah, Ga. I accepted a position as Director of Children’s Ministries for Southside Baptist Church in Savannah Ga. As a former student and Teacher of Hawthorne schools, I hope that those in positions to save our school will see how much students and families in Hawthorne need HHS. Hawthorne students can’t just go to school anywhere. The students need teachers and administrators who understand their backgrounds and can meet them where they are. Success is within their reach if someone would care enough to go the extra mile.
Richard Deford, c/o ’89
Went to CFCC in Ocala for music. Have done revivals and concerts in 19 states plus Germany, Austria and Jamaica. Was ordained and licensed in 2001 as a pastor and have served in that capacity since then. I work full-time as a Healthcare Chaplain and Hospice Chaplain at a local hospital and am endorsed as such by the trustees of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Grace Mae Dickerson, c/o ’01
Went straight into the Dental Assisting program at Santa Fe and finished in 2002. 15 years as a Certified Dental Assistant and currently working on prerequisites for the Dental Hygiene program.
Chad Driggers, c/o ’13
Senior Controls Systems Engineer
AS. Electronic Design
BS electrical engineering
MS information systems development
Tony Fackender, c/o ’82
Went in Army for 4 years after graduation then FL Army National Guard. Worked for Lowe’s 15 years as a member of management. Afterwards became a truck driver and have owned my own for 6 years. Doing well as HHS helped teach me the skills needed in life to succeed!!
Peggy Ferguson, c/o ’72
I received an AA from Santa Fe College, BS from UF in Elementary Education, MS in Reading & Ed.S in English from Nova Southeastern University, & Ph.D in Clinical Psychology (Biblical) from Cornerstone University. I worked for Alachua County Schools for 37 years as a teacher, reading coach, and teacher specialist. I also worked for the State of Fl Department of Education as a Trainer in Reading First during the summer and I’m currently retired.
Nancy Ferrell, c/o ’87
Have 2 degrees in computers, a real estate license, I have worked for over 20 years in the restaurant industry, plus management, owned my own business for several years, now am a stay at home person for my little farm due to illness.
Jason Taylor Floyd, c/o ’17
Majoring in History and Education at Santa Fe. Hope to be teaching high school history after college.
Megan Newman Hendricks, c/o ’92
I graduated from the University of Florida in 1997, and then obtained an MBA from the University of South Florida in 2000. Having worked in higher education for most of my career, I’m now the Executive Director of a global professional association of business schools and employers.
Joy Lane Hicks, c/o ’92
MBA with Finance Specialty. Worked as VP of Financial Data Management for 13 years before starting my own home restoration and design business in Jacksonville. I don’t understand the reasoning behind closing this school. Like many, it’s not perfect but for this community it’s everything.
Don Johnson, would have been C/O 93 (moved in 91)
Own a Digital Marketing Agency as well as a couple other business interests.
Kim Carter Johnson, c/o ’88
BS in Pharmacy from Florida A&M. Retail Pharmacist in Gainesville area for 20 years.
Patricia Lawrence, c/o ’92
I graduated in 1992, got my bachelor’s in Accounting in 1996, currently work for Alachua County Clerk of Court as an accountant.
Kim Meyer, c/o ’88
Masters in Nursing Management and Leadership, Nurse Manager of Maternal Newborn Care, University of Utah Health
Cindy Parsons Milligan, c/o ’90
AS Degree in Business Administration and Management. I currently have my own home rental business. In the past, I have worked for the Chairman and CEO of a Fortune 500 Holding company doing various jobs as office management, travel coordinator, personal assistant and helped with board meetings arrangements/dinners. I owe Coach Raccioppi a huge thank you for arranging for us to do a business project of running a business in Economics class! How awesome was that my fellow classmates! I could go on for many teachers when I was there . The teachers are the heart of a school in which the children benefit from their dedication! Good luck even tho I can’t make meeting!
Amanda Moore, c/o ’00
M.Ed in Educational Psychology and Human Performance from FSU. Principal Consultant at Microsoft.
Jessica Morris, c/o ’98
CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse) Currently pursuing my masters. I am ACLS certified, CPHQ certified, NIH certified, TPA certified, level 1 trauma nurse with certifications specializing in traumatic brain injury and spine trauma as well as stroke. I’m currently the Sepsis Coordinator at NFRMC and drive that program for NPSG house wide.
Travis Pierce Sr., c/o ’10
Own and operate a tree service since 2010!
Jacquelyn Randall, c/o ’02
B.S. in Cardiopulmonary Science from Florida A&M working as an RRT. Currently seeking my M.B.A.-Healthcare Management from St. Leo University
Natasha Roberts Nelson c/o 92
Home health aid “92-“99
Desiree Saputo, c/o ’05
LDO,ABOC, NCLE (Henderson)
Licensed by the FL Department of Health and Medical Quality Assurance to practice Opticianry.
Certified Optician ( Nationwide )
Certified Contact Lens Fitter ( Nationwide )
Currently Employed by Maculogix as an Executive account manager. I work with Optometrists and Ophthalmologist groups to fight the #1 disease causing blindness in patients over the age of 55 (Macula Degeneration).
Adam Silvia, c/o ’93
SGT USMC / Lt in the Navy (Pilot). 2 x BS degrees in Marketing and Finance from Hawaii Pacific University, MBA from State University of New York at Albany. Regional Operations Manager for the Northeast for Airgas.
Rick Smith, c/o ’92
Senior Wireless Engineer for C3Wireless
Tracy Taylor, c/o ’92
Deputy Sheriff, Sgt. In the Investigations division at the Gilchrist County Sheriff’s Office for 9 years, City of Trenton Police Department Chief of Police for 3 1/2 years, now working at UF Health Shands Vista as Security. FDLE Certified Instructor, Taser Instructor, DEA Academy Graduate, etc. Hawthorne High School in my opinion is the backbone of that city. The school has produced phenomenal people that have changed the world.
Amanda (Hayes) Thomas c/o ’98
A.S. Business Administration – Management from City College Gainesville Fl, B.A. Accounting from Ashford University, currently work for UF as a Grants Accountant in the Contracts and Grants department. My siblings attended HHS, and now my niece and nephew are in our wonderful Hawthorne schools! ? Hornet Pride!
Misty Tompkins, c/o ’01
I graduated 2001 went straight into the Marines. I now have an Associate-Business Administration- Colorado Technical University- B.S in Health Science West Texas A&M about to complete a 2nd Bachelors degree in Forensics. In January of 2018 My job title will be Forensic Consultant. Thank you everyone who is working hard to save our school.
Johnny Tucker, c/o ’66
3 Graduate Degrees: Master of Aeronautical Science (Embry-Riddle), Master in Airport Management (Embry-Riddle); Master in Business Administration (Univ of Calif – Sacramento); United States Air Force – 20 years; Retired Major, Senior Pilot; Chief of Standardization/Evaluation Division (SAC); Chief, Consolidated Training Flight; Squadron Officer School (in residence); Air Command and Staff College (Beale AFB, CA); Air War College (Maryland); Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT – Craig AFB, AL); United Airlines Pilot – 26 years (Captain/First Officer, Flight Engineer) Boeing: 727,737,707,757,767,747…Thanks to Larry Reeves of Hawthorne for teaching me how to fly small prop planes. I could go on and on…but it all began right there in little ol’ Hawthorne High School, Hawthorne, Florida.
Shelby Fidler (Walker), c/o ‘14
Dual Enrolled during Jr and Sr years at SFC. Graduated with an AA and EMT in 2014. Then graduated from Santa Fe College with my RN in 2016 with Honors. Currently working as a Mother Baby RN at North Florida Regional Medical. Going back for my BSN this summer.
Allison McKinney Williams, c/o ’02
I attended Chester Shell Elementary from Kindergarten – Fifth & Graduated from HHS as Salutatorian of My Senior Class. I went on to graduate with Honors (Magna Cum Laude) from Lake City Community College in 2009 with an AS Degree as a Physical Therapist Assistant. I am currently not doing Health Care anymore but I am the Administrative Assistant for Lighthouse Christian School in Middleburg, Florida. HHS was a great place to be and the staff made it that way. I have fond memories there. The students don’t make or break a school the staff’s team work, love & dedication shape a school into what it is. I loved my Middle School/ High School Experience at HHS. We were a family back in my day. Teachers were mothers and fathers to students, Pop was our Grandfather and I wouldn’t have it any way. Loretta (the lunch lady) ? attends my church and still has the Sweetest Smile I ever did see. I am glad I had the opportunity to grow up at HHS!
Wendy (Terry) Wood, c/o ’89
AA SF Health Science. Working towards BS in Healthcare Administration and Business Management. 14 years @ UF , now employed at UF Health Shands. Bring Hornet Pride Back!! Our community is about family!
While the school is certainly not without its challenges, closing its doors will not only displace 300+ students, many of whom may have to be bused to outlying cities, it will cause of rift in the very community it has been a part of for decades. Parents, alumni, students and community members are coming together to ask the district and the state to provide the supports and resources necessary to keep the school open. In takes a community, and we are #AllIn!
*Posted with permission