OUR OPINION: THS celebration marks a community unifier

Most communities with a single public high school rally around it. The school becomes a focal point for community unity, the place where people gather and form an identity that spans economic, social and racial categories.

The high school, as the flagship of a local public school system, also becomes the symbol of a community’s highest aspirations for its youth.

Those things are particularly true in Tupelo, where Tupelo High School has united the entire community for nearly 50 years since integration and, in the half-century of segregation prior to the late 1960s, the white community. In pre-integration days, Tupelo’s black community had the same strong attachment to what was then Carver High School.

Tupelo High School this weekend will mark its 100th anniversary. Fittingly, there will be a celebration Saturday at what is now Mississippi’s largest high school.

Tupelo became a municipality in 1870 and a public school was established in the 1880s, but the first building officially set apart and designated as Tupelo High School was dedicated in 1914. Thus, this year’s centennial celebration.

Commemorative events will be held at THS on Saturday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. The school will be open during that time for touring.

The current Tupelo High School stands as a symbol of the community’s commitment to its public education system and to being a statewide leader in facilities and academic programs. The expansive campus opened in 1992 was built with proceeds from a $17 million bond issue – at the time the largest ever approved in Mississippi. It passed with 88 percent of the vote and sent a clear signal that Tupelo wanted the best for its youth.

The showcase Performing Arts Center followed in the early 2000s as part of a successful 1999 bond issue.

Local economic developers often have cited Tupelo High as one of the first places they take prospects. When Toyota officials announced in 2007 at THS that they were locating a plant in nearby Blue Springs, they cited Tupelo High as one of the things that most impressed them about the community and region.

Tupelo High School has a history of academic and extracurricular achievement and it remains today one of the best-resourced high schools in our part of the country. It has overcome challenges in recent years and reasserted itself as an academic leader in the state.

The city of Tupelo has every good reason to celebrate the legacy – and the future – of one of its premier assets.