Many who have already visited the new website for the Weaver High School redesign www.weaver2019.com come away with a sense of hope and optimism for the future of North Hartford. The redesign process for the new Weaver High School is back on track, and design specs for the building look impressive.
But those who already “bleed Weaver” green know that a great school (like a great book) cannot always be judged solely by what is on the outside. In particular, the noteworthy history of Hartford’s Weaver High School speaks to a legacy of excellence that has not always been matched by external appearances and adequate funding. But, having benefitted from a strong foundation of community support and innovative programming, Weaver alumni will be the first to tell you that the quality of education found at the “old” Weaver was a beacon of hope for students in Harford’s North End – and the expectations for the new Weaver are even higher.
To the 11 Weaver High School graduates and faculty who participated in the June 26 alumni panel at the Journalism & Media Academy Magnet School in Hartford, the ethos of “Bleeding Green” is not just a source of identity and nostalgia; it is a foundation of values and experiences that they hope can also guide future generations of students as the construction and design of the new Weaver High School continues to take shape.
Ranging from Millennials in the early stages of their careers to recently retired Baby Boomers who still fondly thumb through their old yearbooks, the Weaver alumni panel was the mainstage event during the public portion of a “retreat workshop” for co-chairs of the Weaver Steering Committee and its Workgroups. The alumni panel collectively taught the audience a well-received history lesson on how their years at Weaver impacted them and conveyed the importance of sustaining this impact at the “new” Weaver.
What It Means to “Bleed Green”
Weaver alumni issued a collective call for those planning the redesign of the new Weaver to truly “bleed green” and rebuild Weaver into the best high school that Hartford has to offer students. The retreat workshop was the latest in a dramatically improved community-led process that will result in a redesigned school (inside and out!) for the new Weaver High School built to better serve students in Hartford’s North End.
John Lobon (class of ’68) recalled that the sense of camaraderie and spirit among Weaver students and faculty created a cohesive community where everyone believed “We are one.” This level of pride motivated Lobon and his football teammates to travel the state and put “fear in the hearts” of their opponents, ultimately resulting in a state championship.
While athletics was a big source of pride and culture at Weaver, it was the quality of education delivered by dedicated teachers – many of whom lived in the community – and abundance of extracurricular activities that set up students for success.
Shontay Browdy (class of ’93) described how joining the Business Department and learning in Ms. Pruitt’s class how to underwrite insurance changed her life. Continuing her education beyond high school was never in doubt as her teachers and guidance counselors never asked if she was going to college, but where.
Former Hartford City Councilman Kyle Anderson (Class of ’80) remembered how his education extended beyond the classroom. As his classmates enjoyed participating in activities such as music, the performing arts, the school radio station and National Honors Society, it was having the chance to join Boys State – a leadership development program for those interested in government service – his junior year at the Coast Guard Academy that sparked his interest in politics.
Past members of the faculty who participated in the alumni panel remembered the commitment they gave to their students and to each other. Former Weaver teacher and alumnus Emily Noel (Class of ’75) has taught at seven other schools throughout her career but never felt the level of dedication among the faculty higher than during her years at Weaver. John Carr, a 35-year teacher veteran of Weaver High School, emotionally summed up the bonds developed between students and teachers: “At other [town’s] graduations, they shake hands. We hugged.”
Alumni can play a critical role in shaping the future of their school. Jason Farquharson (Class of ’99) – who serves as a member of the rapidly growing North End Organizing Task Force – explained the importance of Weaver alumni being actively involved in the future of Weaver: “We want to show students that you can definitely graduate from this school. Don’t worry about your circumstances. You can leave here, graduate, find a good job and come back.”
Other panelists weighed in on what is necessary at the new Weaver so that the next generation of students can also “bleed green” with pride.
Hartford Board of Education member and Director of the Department of Families, Children, Youth, and Recreation Kim Oliver (Class of ’92) emphasized the importance of designing a school to sustain the rich legacy and spirit of Weaver, a school where “opportunities abound” when she attended.
Current UConn Law student Ashley Daley (Class of ’08) stressed the importance of developing a rigorous academic program and culture to better prepare students for college.
Adding to that, Karraine Moody (Class of ’97) hoped the new Weaver focuses on the needs of the individual student where once he or she “walks in the door, they are treated the same and given the same opportunities.”
Former Weaver High School football coach Rob Fleeting (Class of ’88), who remembered the school as a “place of comfort” when he was a student, emphasized the importance of overall school camaraderie, an asset he hopes is not lost when the three separate academic academies are placed under one roof.
Jason Farquharson remembered that Weaver instilled in him a “pride of being great,” thanks to the dedicated teachers. In the new Weaver, he said, above all “We need teachers that are passionate and love us.”
As Weaver High School goes through the redesign process, it is imperative that alumni continue to be viewed and engaged as passionate stakeholders who bring informed perspectives on what a quality educational experience should be for future students. (To view the current design plans for the school, visit www.weaver2019.com)
Alumni made it clear to all in attendance that the bar is high for the “new” Weaver, but all expressed confidence that, if the community-led process continues with strong partnerships and a laser-sharp focus on excellence and improving student development and outcomes, the Weaver Steering Committee can and will meet the challenge presented.
While each alumnus went through a unique experience at Weaver, all believed that it was the school’s culture of community that instilled the level of pride that survives to this day. For the new Weaver to be like the old Weaver, it is the community that must build it to last.
For more information on the new Weaver High School – and to sign up to get regular updates – please visit www.weaver2019.com.