Students walking into Anniston High School for the first day of class Wednesday likely noticed something new: freshly trimmed shrubbery, pressure-washed sidewalks and scrubbed benches.
The work was the result of several community cleanup days in which local officials, alumni and residents pitched in to help school staff.
Sophomore Allasha Dudley and her classmates Kearra Ashford, a senior, and Tahj Jones, a junior, said Wednesday that the efforts didn’t go unnoticed.
“It made us feel like the community cares about the school,” Dudley said.
The cleanup days came as a result of comments former Anniston Mayor David Dethrage made about what he saw as disrepair on the school’s campus showing “no pride of ownership.” School officials and community members accused Dethrage of drive-by activism, but the former mayor and administrators agreed to hold the cleanup days after his comments were discussed during a tense school board meeting in June.
During graduation ceremonies in May, Anniston High valedictorian Dakarai Wilson called on the community to show its support for the school, which often faces unfair stereotypes.
“We suffer from a lack of resources,” she told the Class of 2018. “We suffer from the scrutiny of others looking from the outside, and we suffer from the absence of academic recognition that is overshadowed by the negative, indifferent and biased nature of media outlets. As a result, it makes being a student from Anniston High School seem punishing.”
Jones, the Anniston High junior, said Wednesday that he hopes the community will continue the support it showed during the upkeep work performed over the summer.
Asked what more she would like to see the community do, Ashford said Wednesday she would like to see a mentorship program at the high school similar to Big Brothers and Big Sisters. She said it could focus on freshman who feel overwhelmed or at-risk of dropping out.
Anniston High Principal Charles Gregory said the faculty and staff also appreciated the work done during the cleanup days, but he added, “Our school looks good all the time.”
He said having officials, alumni and residents working and sweating side by side will help build relationships that are important for the progress of the school.
Gregory said he believes those relationships will mean more support for student initiatives, more attendance for school sporting events and even more financial support for teachers.