An Alumna of Williston requested that I write an article about Williston and submit the same to The Wilmington Journal. She did not, however, request any specifics. Therefore, I shall take the liberty to write about my impressions of the Williston Administration, faculty and student body. I shall also write about some facts that some know, some do not know, and others may have forgotten.
I arrived in Wilmington in August of 1952 – fresh out of graduate school after attending North Carolina College for Negroes (now called North Carolina Central University). My first year as a Media Specialist, was shared with librarian Fannie P. White – who was the librarian at Williston Industrial School. The student population at the school had increased and warranted two full-time librarians instead of one.
Fannie P. was a very good mentor to me and to many other faculty members. She and I worked together for one year before I was assigned to Williston Senior High School. This new school was in the process of being built and was completed so that some of the faculty and students could begin the school year 1953-54 the school now named Williston Senior High School. This new public school remained as a high school until school desegregation occurred in the fall of 1968-1969.
Before sharing information about programs and achievements that were implemented at Williston Senior High School, I am anxious to share my impression of the commencement activities that were held at Williston Industrial in 1952-1953. Teachers and students were filled with spirit and anticipation as they worked on class night, baccalaureate and commencement programs and activities. These activities were well planned, and it was obvious to parents, guardians, as well as new faculty members that these seasoned faculty members were familiar with the word EXCEL!
Williston students (for the most part) were anxious to learn and do their very best as they moved from one grade to another. Students were very competitive, and took pride in excelling in their studies as well as in the area of athletics. Williston teachers and students knew that they needed to excel to a greater degree in order to be considered in the world of work. The words, “being doubly prepared”, were used quite often by teachers as they taught students at Williston Sr. High School.
“In loco parentis” was practiced to an extensive degree. Parents, grandmothers, and guardians requested the teachers to provide strong discipline for their children. Of course these same individuals would also discipline their ‘out of line’ children a second time at home. A special kind of bonding occurred between student and teacher. Maybe the statement, ‘Students do not care how much you know until they know how much you care’ was deeply ingrained in the minds of Williston administration and teachers.
During the 1960-1961 school year, Williston Sr. High School hosted the first week-long ‘Book Fair’ that New Hanover County Schools ever experienced. Since the public schools were still segregated (with the exception of a few students) only elementary and junior high schools attended by African-American students visited this initial book fair, which was held in Williston’s gymnasium. Two additional county-wide book fairs were held before this program was terminated. These book fairs helped to enhance the students’ love of reading and also encouraged book ownership.
One incident at Williston Sr. High School frustrated and saddened me a great deal. One year when Williston students were given a national test and made scores higher than expected by the then superintendent, these students were required to be re-tested (Dr. Heyward Bellamy was not the superintendent at this time). When re-tested, however, the scores were still high. Could these high scores have been a result of good teaching and motivated students? During this same period many seniors, upon graduation, were courted and being accepted by several Ivy League Colleges and Universities throughout the country.
Was Williston Senior High School a great school? The answer is a resounding YES! How do I know? As I mentioned previously, I was employed as a Media Specialist there for 15 years (including one year at Williston Industrial School).
”Williston Senior High School was truly one of the greatest schools under the sun.”