New Houston high school getting up to speed with student activities

Houston County High School freshman Rose Harper, 14, is looking forward to starting classes at Veterans High School next school year as a way to reinvent herself.

As a rising sophomore, she wants to become the captain of the color guard at the new school.

“It’s a great opportunity to start something new,” Harper said.

“I’m sad about leaving (Houston County High), but I’ll make new friends and have a good time.”

She, along with about 40 students attending Houston County and Veterans high schools next year, took part in practices the past two Saturdays to prepare for tryouts today for the schools’ color guard teams.

This past Saturday morning, the girls worked on a dance routine set to Madonna’s “Vogue” and practiced twirling flags in shades of red, blue, purple, orange and white.

Other students, such as Warner Robins High School sophomore Natalie Suckow, recognize the potential in moving to a new school but have some apprehensions.

“I’m excited, but I don’t want to leave at the same time. I’m leaving my band friends and the guard I’ve grown to love over the past two years,” said Suckow, 15.

Next year, Harper and Suckow will join about 900 students at Veterans High, located on Piney Grove Road in Kathleen, coming from various high schools in the system at Veterans High. Whatever their feelings about moving to Veterans, they’re wasting no time in getting involved in extracurricular activities there.

Not only is Veterans drawing upon students from schools all over the county, it is also getting some help for those programs from Houston County High.

Besides helping Veterans hold its color guard tryouts, the band boosters from Houston County High are donating $1,000 toward Veterans’ band boosters, Veterans band director Thomas Brown told a group of about 100 parents and students in March. That money will be the first toward raising the $30,000 required to equip the band with new uniforms.

Mary Beth McConnell, director of the Veterans color guard, said the time the girls have spent together in practices has given them a chance to get to know each other.

“They come from other high schools ... but we’re all one school,” McConnell said.

Students who will be attending Veterans next year are preparing for other activities as well.

On Thursday, school officials held a meeting inside the Veterans gym for prospective student athletes. Parents and students filled one side of the bleachers, and Athletics Director David Bruce said he ran out of the 150 handouts prepared for the meeting.

“I guess I had little faith,” Bruce said.

Principal Lionel Brown noted that though the students did not choose whether to be zoned for Veterans High, their initiative in coming to the meeting was significant.

“It tells me something about you. You want to be a part of something big in Houston County,” said Brown, who was also present at the band informational meeting.

About 300 T-shirts emblazoned with the school’s mascot, the Warhawks, were sold before and after Thursday’s meeting.

“People were so excited they already had some done,” said Eddie Williams, a literacy coach at Morningside Elementary School whose son will be a junior at Veterans next year.

Houston County High freshman R.J. Skeen said he is looking forward to playing baseball at Veterans next year.

“It’ll be real fun playing on this team,” said Skeen, 15. “We have a lot of talent from (other) schools.”

His father, Randy, pointed out that some of the best ninth-grade players from Warner Robins High and Houston County High would also be students at Veterans next year.

“You combine those two, it’s a heck of a baseball team,” he said.

Like many of her peers, Warner Robins High sophomore Jessica Brown also views the move to Veterans with a combination of enthusiasm and nervousness. However, meeting other students interested in joining the color guard makes her feel more at ease with the changes next year.

“Once you join, it’s like a family,” Brown, 15, said.

To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 256-9751.