This weekend upcoming is school reunion time for Pea Ridge High School alumni from all years.
From 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 14, PRHS graduates from all years, along with former students, teachers, administrators and staff personnel are invited to the PRHS Alumni Day Reunion at the High School Cafeteria. The day will seek to honor those PRHS graduating classes who are observing special anniversaries: such as the Class of 1943 (25 years), 1968 (50 years), and 1993 (25 years), as well as the Classes of 1948 (70 years), 1958 (60 years), 1978 (40 years), and 1988 (30 years). The event brings together several generations of the Blackhawk family to reminisce together, catch up on happenings, renew old friendships and relive experiences from earlier times.
Several reasons lead me to really enjoy school reunions. One is to recall how schoolmates and classmates influenced each of us as we were shaping the person we would become, how we developed our hopes and ambitions, how we committed to certain values for our pursuits in life, and how we learned to form contacts and networks that would help us in those pursuits. A second is to appreciate meaningful lifetime friendships that we formed during school days and have enjoyed across the years. Still another is to become better acquainted with other alums who we didn't know during our own school days, but who have had their own years as Blackhawks, so we share some common history.
One of the goals of the Alumni Association is to raise funds for the Alumni Scholarship program. Over the past 12 years, the Alumni Association has sponsored a growing program of scholarship grants for Pea Ridge High School grads who are beginning college. The Alumni Scholarships especially focus on supporting students who have financial need and might not otherwise be able to go to college. A single Alumni Scholarship grant was made in 2007, and the program has grown steadily, such that 12 $1,000 scholarships were granted for the Class of 2018.
The Alumni Association believes that community support for the educational enterprise through Pea Ridge public schools is essential to the success of our schools, and to the success of those who pursue learning skills through our schools. We see school reunions as one demonstration of community interest and support for a vital and effective school system, devoted to the cause of learning for life, cultural enrichment, skills for employment and quality community life.
Alumni reunions usually display a variety of historical pictures, documents and artifacts. These are reminders of how several generations of students, teachers, and administrators have inspired and shaped the Blackhawk heritage. Our intent is to remind everyone that our Blackhawk heritage is a great heritage, and should inspire our own generations to contribute to strengthening and extending the vision and productiveness of that heritage.
The educational enterprise in Pea Ridge has quite an honorable history, beginning in the last quarter of the 1800s before the advent of public schools.
The Pea Ridge Academy opened in 1874 in the Masonic Lodge building in the center of the grounds at Buttrams Chapel. School was conducted there for the first five years with Professor John R. Roberts instructing the upper grades and his sister, Miss Nanny Roberts teaching Grades 1 through 5. In 1880, they opened school in the new brick building in Pea Ridge. The new school building faced to the east, and stood out front from the bus loading area of today's Pea Ridge Intermediate School. In 1884, the first Pea Ridge Elementary School classes were begun, with Grades 1 through 8, meeting in the Academy building. High School and College courses were provided by the Academy and its Board of Trustees, while the Public Elementary School classes were governed by the School Board.
In 1894, when Professor Roberts left the college, the Academy was reorganized as the Mt. Vernon Normal College, with emphasis on teacher training. A second reorganization took place in 1902, when 11 Masonic Lodges became direct sponsors of the college, and the school became known as Mt. Vernon Masonic College. The college finally closed in 1916, and the building and property were deeded to the Pea Ridge Public School. The old Academy building continued as the Pea Ridge School Building until 1930, when it was replaced by the red brick school building which faced the downtown business district. Initially the red brick schoolhouse held all grades, elementary in the west side and higher grades in the east. Then with the formation of the new elementary campus in 1964, the red brick schoolhouse became Pea Ridge High School, and served until the growing school population led to the erecting the new High School campus on West Pickens Road.
Pea Ridge Schools have never been a slouch of a school. Even in the beginning, Pea Ridge was a leading school in Benton County, and the Blackhawk heritage from 1916 and onward has much to be proud of.
Editor's note: Jerry Nichols, a native of Pea Ridge, is a retired Methodist minister and on the board of the Pea Ridge Historical Society. The views expressed are the author's. He can be contacted by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 621-1621.Editorial on 07/11/2018
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