Principal Autumn O’Bryan addressed the crowd of blue, red and white.
“This has been a dream of many for several years and we are so excited to take time out of our schedules to celebrate our past, present and future Raiders,” O’Bryan said to the jam-packed gym.
Students, faculty and administration of the city school system stood to welcome the 17 inductees. Whistles, shouts and loud applause could be heard as the honored guests made their way to the podium.
Cleveland High School’s choir set the tone of the celebratory event with the national anthem.
Student Government President Ansley McCarley soon followed to present a history of Cleveland High School.
“Cleveland High School represents a tradition of excellence in this community,” Ansley began. “Some have used their time in this building to gain tools that have enabled them to make this a better world for [others].”
She explained Cleveland graduates can be found enriching the community whether working in a local store or serving overseas in the Armed Forces.
Ansley added, “These graduates are a part of something greater than themselves.”
Almost 700 new Blue Raiders made up the school at the time of its formal dedication on Oct. 2, 1966.
“Since its inception, academic excellence has been the benchmark at Cleveland High as each year a disproportionate number of seniors for the size of the school are National Merit Scholars,” Ansley said.
“Each year Cleveland High School seniors are awarded over $7 million in scholarships to attend a variety of prestigious colleges and universities.”
Cleveland City Schools faculty and staff made individual introductions for the first Hall of Fame class.
Those inducted included Dan Cooke, class of 1968; Bill Emendorfer, class of 1969; Vicky (Brown) Gregg (award accepted by brother Bill Brown), class of 1972; Allan Jones, class of 1972; Pamela (Pressley) Vaught, class of 1973; Dewayne Bunch, class of 1977; Kellye (Hicks) Bender, class of 1978; Mark Smith, class of 1978; Mike Sharp, class of 1979; Elvis Brandon, class of 1982; Jay Elliott, class of 1986; Howard Langford, class of 1986; Madison Torrence, class of 1988; David Skidmore, class of 1989; Athena (Buckner) Davis, class of 1996; Sara Murphy, class of 1996; and Travis Beacham, class of 1999.
Each inductee into the Hall of Fame will have a plaque in their honor hung in the school. These plaques will display a picture of the inductee, a brief description of their accomplishments and a quote of their choice.
Many of the honored guests like, Mark Smith, were touched by the recognition.
“To say I am overwhelmed is an understatement. I am very humbled to receive this prestigious award from my high school,” Smith said before congratulating the other inductees. “…I treasure Cleveland High School for one reason, the main thing I remember about Cleveland High School, is we were a family.”
He encouraged the gathered students to always remember from where they hailed.
“Don’t every forget where you came from, no matter what you do, no matter where you go,” Smith said. “…I don’t get to put my Cleveland High hat on often, but today I do.”
Others like Elvis Brandon shared memories with the young student body. He received a thorough introduction by Belinda Henley before addressing the assembly.
“I remember being right here in this gym, in the dome, in [class] learning to dance to Michael Jackson’s ‘Off the Wall,’” Brandon said. “I remember Ms. Hughes making an announcement over the intercom during homeroom saying, ‘If your — is at least eight inches long, you can wear shorts to school.’ We weren’t sure what had to be eight inches long, but we were glad we could wear shorts to school.’”
Everyone did their best to offer a word of advice to the attentive crowd.
Closing remarks were made by Director of Schools Dr. Martin Ringstaff prior to the Cleveland High School Choir returning for the closing “Alma Mater.”
The entire ceremony can be viewed online at chslive.com.