ALACHUA ‒ It was the spring of 1996. Charles Moore, a 1969 graduate of A. L. Mebane High School, fervently wanted to establish an organization to revitalize the history of the school as the county's all black high school during the segregation era.
A.L. Mebane High School saw its first graduating class in 1960, and over the years saw changes in education for African Americans and the results of the struggle for racial equality and civil rights. In 1970, Alachua County schools were integrated by Federal law, and there would be no more graduating seniors from A.L. Mebane High School. All the county schools were integrated, the high school students at Mebane were transferred to Santa Fe High School, and Mebane became an integrated middle school.
Moore's brainchild was an organization for all the Alumni to celebrate their history with the community and help future student generations from the neighborhoods remember what the past was like and recognize current opportunities.
Moore sought to keep the school spirit flourishing through yearly reunions, with the focus on keeping the legacy alive for all the graduating classes from1960 to 1970. The unity and spirit of the 10 graduating classes remained strong and the Alumni Association was created by Moore in 1996, who also served as its first president.
Since then, each year on the weekend after Thanksgiving, former students and family members from A.L. Mebane High School hold a multi-day homecoming celebration and parade for a school that no longer exists. Sponsored by the A.L. Mebane High School Alumni Association, the event has become a community tradition. What started as a small group of former students dedicated to keep a connection with their classmates, has become a community event spanning generations celebrating their history, culture and achievements.
The goal of the Alumni Association is not just to celebrate its history, it is also to provide opportunities to current students and give them a better chance at education and a successful future.
“It is important that people remember the past and the struggles of those who came before them. People without a purpose perish, so we want to make sure we provide that opportunity and help future generations,” Moore said.
Each year the Alumni Association awards scholarships to graduating seniors who apply and meet requirements based on student achievement and motivation. “The other requirement is that they have had a family member who went to A,L, Mebane High School,” said Moore. “We presently have eight scholarships available, which are given to 8th grade students at Mebane Middle School with our Step-Up Award.”
Typically, the money is raised from activities surrounding the Alumni weekend including the parade, food or donations. However, the past two years during the COVID pandemic have greatly limited the scope of the activities. “Out of concerns for public safety and spreading the virus, we canceled many of the group activities including the parade,” Moore said. “But we feel the celebration of our history, gathering of Alumni and community, and raising funds for the scholarships are still important, so the event still happens, even if on a smaller scale.”
This year the gathering was small with a ceremony and speakers at the Paradise Community Outreach Church in Alachua at the invitation of Pastor Debra Sermons. The ceremony started with the entire gathering uniting in the song, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” with additional music from the St Matthews Choir.
Vice Mayor of Alachua Shirley Green Brown spoke, as did High Springs Mayor Bryan D. Williams and Newberry Commissioner Tony Mazon. The keynote speaker was Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr. who was introduced by Under Sheriff Joel DeCoursey, Jr., who formerly served as the police chief for the City of Alachua and the City of High Springs as well as City Manager for High Springs. Watson and DeCoursey had also attended Mebane as students.
Watson said history should be remembered as well as the achievements and struggles of those who came before them. He pointed out that while African Americans hold many positions of leadership now, including sheriff and police chiefs in Gainesville, High Springs and City of Alachua, it was those who came before them that made these changes possible.
“They were the ones who were not allowed the opportunities or denied the right to be first, but they made what we see today possible,” Watson said. “It is now our responsibility to show the younger generation that anything is possible. Encourage them with the importance of education, learn their history and the struggles that got us to these achievements.”
The Alumni society also held a BBQ dinner after the ceremony, with the $12-15 meals going toward the scholarships. “We felt we had to keep it safe and scale back the activities due to COVID, but that also hurt our funding drive for the scholarships,” Moore said. “We are accepting donations from anyone who has it in their heart to contribute to the scholarships for these young people's higher education and give them better opportunities for the future. The Alumni Association believes in paying it forward based on the achievements of those before.”
Anyone who would like to donate to the scholarships can send a check to PO Box 628 Alachua FL 32616 in the name of A L Mebane High School Alumni Assoc., Inc.
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