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Strawberry Crest High won't bring an end to students' world

For all those East Hillsborough students who may have to change high schools, consider this tale.

My mother and father spent their entire careers teaching at Florida A&M University, but it almost didn't turn out that way.

When I was 16 and entering my junior year of high school, my mother came to me and said they were considering relocating to Statesboro, Ga., to teach at Georgia Southern University.

She might as well have told me she wanted to move to Nome, Alaska. I can't remember my exact reaction, but it registered a 6.3 on the Richter scale.

I was certain that changing high schools, not to mention changing cities, would devastate my very existence. I explained that I was on the brink of overcoming my Catholic grade-school shyness and blossoming into a vibrant force at the public high school I had grown to love. On the verge of becoming an upperclassman, I knew my popularity would skyrocket any day, the freshman girls would flock to my side and life would be grander than ever.

They just couldn't take all of that away from me to move to a speck on the map surrounded by cotton fields.

So, they relented, and I stayed at Godby High School in Tallahassee.

While I finished my final two years with a lot of joyful moments, I didn't exactly become the big man on campus. The girls just weren't impressed with my status as news editor of the high school paper or the fact that I drove my dad's old Plymouth Valiant.

It's kind of like people aren't all that impressed with my current status as columnist or the fact I drive a Toyota Camry.

I've always wondered what direction would my life had taken if we had moved. Would I have made new and fun discoveries in Statesboro? Could I have parlayed being at a new school into being "the mysterious new kid?" Remember how Lea Thompson followed Michael J. Fox home in Back To The Future?

OK, it was kind of weird because she actually was crushing on her future son, but don't get distracted.

The point is maybe I could have made the most of it. Maybe I could have created a whole new set of friends, learned to appreciate country music and found a girl who thought the Valiant was really cool.

I bring all of this up because on Tuesday, the School Board will finalize the boundaries for the new Strawberry Crest High School in Dover. Some students at Armwood, Durant and Plant City will have to move. Some will have to go to Plant City from Durant.

Changing in midstream may seem as devastating to them as it did to me 29 years ago, and not just because of the social changes (yes, I thought too much about girls back then), but because of the potential academic challenges that may result from going to a new school.

Still, I believe if you embrace the change instead of fighting it, it may work out. For a while, I thought my two sons might end up getting rezoned to Strawberry Crest from Armwood. Turns out we live about a mile west of the Strawberry Crest boundary, but I was ready to accept the possibility.


My sons, of course, swear the world would have started spinning backwards if they could no longer call themselves Hawks.

It's a common emotion, as evidenced by the fact Armwood's colors are blue, white and maroon, because back in the 1980s, the kids who opened Armwood insisted on taking a piece of Brandon High maroon with them.

You know what? They survived.

And I believe the students will survive this latest change, too. After all, we're not talking about impressionable elementary school kids. We're talking about people on the verge of becoming adults who will have to make many other adjustments in life.

Look at the children of military families who change schools, cities and, in many cases, regions of the country every two years. I know a number of adults who grew up as military brats and it has only made them more resilient. I've also noticed that they have dear friends in almost every corner of the nation.

Here, we're just talking about changing schools in the same area. In most cases, the students don't have to make that change alone. They'll have some classmates going with them from their own neighborhoods.

Are there legitimate concerns? Sure, but nothing that can't be solved with some good parenting.

Get involved at your new school.

In the end, you can define it as unfair punishment, or you can embrace it as a pioneering opportunity. It's a different kind of "school choice" issue, but no less valuable in the lessons that can be learned.

That's all I'm saying.

Ernest Hooper also writes a column for the Tampa Bay section. Reach him at or (813) 226-3406.

Strawberry Crest High won't bring an end to students' world 02/05/09 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 5:40pm]
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