Celebrating a Milestone

By: Philip Stewart
By: Philip Stewart

June 22, 2006

"I was captain of the cheerleading squad," remembered Ramonde Gardner. "We were good."

Memories like those filled the room Saturday evening.

"It's like finding my sisters and brothers and seeing them again," said Sylvia Harris Cole.

The class is a special one. They were the first to spend 5 full years, from 7th to 12-th grade, at Burley.

Before 1956 most high schoolers graduated after 11th grade, so this class spent more time at the school, and more time with each other than any other classes.

That closeness still shows 50 years later.

"We just love each other," said Gardner. "Just like I made the statement, if you've been in the womb for five years, you have to grow close,"

More than 80 graduates from the class of 1956 attended Saturday night's event. Many said they wouldn't be there if not for all the people that helped along the way back at Burley.

"We had teachers that taught us etiquette and grooming," said Rheva Williams. "(They) taught us everything we needed to be taught to survive in the community."

"(The teachers) were- you could look at them, and you could tell that if you were doing something wrong, you had it coming," laughed Thomas Churchman, who was attending the event all the way from Sacramento.

But perhaps most important, says one former student, is the confidence those teachers gave their students.

"Our teachers taught us that there was no such thing as failing," said Gardner. "Everybody had the potential, and whether you thought you had it or not, by the time you finished Burley, you knew you had it."

Not only did the class of 1956 spend five full years at Burley, but they also were the first to complete all twelve full years of public education in Charlottesville.

Saturday's event was just one of several events planned for the former students over the weekend.

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