R.L. Cousins school alumni cel­e­brate

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - DANIELLE EVER­SON de­v­er­son@cov­news.com

Alumni from the his­toric R.L. Cousins school will gather this weekend to cel­e­brate its his­tory and re­unite with friends at a pic­nic, and in ad­vance of the gath­er­ing a hand­ful of for­mer stu­dents shared fond mem­o­ries of its ex­is­tence.

The R.L. Cousins Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion will host a pic­nic Satur­day from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Ge­or­gia Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion, 11600 Hazel­brand Road, Cov­ing­ton.

The pic­nic is a chance for class­mates to re­con­nect with old friends and re­mem­ber the his­toric all- black school, which was in ex­is­tence from 1957 to 1970 prior to in­te­gra­tion in Newton County.

R.L. Cousins served first through 12th grade stu­dents.

Lil­lie Roberts, 68, cor­re­spond­ing sec­re­tary for the R.L. Cousins Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion, said when the school opened in 1957, black stu­dents from all over Newton County came to at­tend the school. She said the ex­pe­ri­ence was new and ex­cit­ing for ev­ery­one.

Many stu­dents came from small schools, where stu­dents were taught by grade level, rather than

spe­cific sub­jects, she said.

“At first it was kind of in­tim­i­dat­ing be­cause we had come from smaller schools, to the big, big school,” Roberts said. “And to go from there to a big school with a cafe­te­ria, and a li­brary and a stage and a place for home eco­nom­ics and all those ex­tracur­ric­u­lar things, it was re­ally, re­ally ex­cit­ing to us to have ex­po­sure to and be a part of.”

Roberts, who grad­u­ated from the school in 1963, said many friend­ships were made at the school and she can re­mem­ber meet­ing a lot of won­der­ful peo­ple.

Chester Ben­ton, 61, pres­i­dent of the R.L. Cousins Alumni As­so­ci­a­tion, said he grad­u­ated from the high school in 1969. Ben­ton said while at­tend­ing the school he gained many lead­er­ship qual­i­ties. He served as pres­i­dent of his se­nior class and on the stu­dent coun­cil and worked on the year­book staff.

He said a num­ber of stu­dents who at­tended the school ex­tended their ed­u­ca­tion be­yond high school, and that’s what made the school spe­cial – many stu­dents val­ued ed­u­ca­tion.

“Dur­ing that time, our par­ents preached ed­u­ca­tion. A lot of them did not have a high school ed­u­ca­tion. So grad­u­at­ing from high school was al­most like get­ting a doc­tor­ate de­gree. So they preached grad­u­at­ing from high school. That to them was ma­jor and it gave us the in­cen­tive to do some­thing else be­yond high school,” Ben­ton said.

“The fac­ulty, the teach­ers, the ad­min­is­tra­tors we had at Cousins, they re­ally preached that. Be­cause what we had were res­i­dents not re­ally do­ing any­thing, but our teach­ers came from small black col­leges,” he said. “So, of course, they val­ued ed­u­ca­tion very much and they would con­stantly work with us. They were al­most like our sec­ond par­ents.”

Ben­ton ex­plained that fac­ulty mem­bers came from his­tor­i­cally black col­leges, in­clud­ing Mor­ris Brown Univer­sity, Fort Val­ley State Univer­sity, More­house Col­lege, Clark At­lanta Univer­sity and oth­ers, which mo­ti­vated stu­dents to fol­low in their teach­ers’ suc­cess­ful foot­steps.

Not only did teach­ers at the school back the stu­dents, Ben­ton said stu­dents also gained sup­port from oth­ers in the R.L. Cousins com­mu­nity.

“The whole body from the sec­re­taries to the jan­i­tor, they sup­ported you. They cor­rected you and you knew how proud they felt for you to con­tinue your ed­u­ca­tion. We had a good com­mu­nity base that re­ally cared about our fu­ture plans,” he said.

Fred John­son grad­u­ated from the school in 1958. The 74-year-old said he re­mem­bers R.L. Cousins as a good place to be. Though the school was known for its ath­let­ics, win­ning awards for its bas­ket­ball teams and other ath­letic pro­grams, John­son said, “I wasn’t too ath­let­i­cally in­clined.”

He did, how­ever, sing in the cho­rus for a short pe­riod of time. John­son said stu­dents at the school had a sense of pride and en­joyed their new ed­u­ca­tional en­deav­ors at the school, such as vo­ca­tional agri­cul­ture classes and shop class, which taught car­pen­try and engineering.

John­son said this years’ third an­nual pic­nic is just like another class re­union.

“You see some of the stu­dents that you hadn’t seen since they grad­u­ated. Right now, with my class, there are only a few of us left. And the class of 1957 was the first class that grad­u­ated there, and it’s only a few of them left. So we’re get­ting pretty scarce; so this is a good thing,” he said.

Ben­ton said it was a great feel­ing to be a part of the school and its his­tory to the com­mu­nity.

“There’s noth­ing like R.L. Cousins, or as we called it RLC. We had great ex­pe­ri­ences and ev­ery­one at some point in their life should at least get that feel­ing that we had,” Ben­ton said.

Sub­mit­ted photo/The Cov­ing­ton News

The 1967 stu­dent coun­cil of R.L. Cousins school.

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