The Legacy of Summer Hill to spur membership
by Marie Nesmith
Jun 19, 2012 | 1247 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On Saturday, the Summer Hill Heritage Group's membership drive looks to highlight and strengthen the legacy of the former African-American school.

"It's sort of like a reunion/homecoming but the purpose is to drive up the membership of the Heritage Group and also bring in some younger people so we can kind of bridge the gap between alumni and the younger generation, so we can keep the legacy going," said Joy Hill, Heritage Group member and curator of the Summer Hill Heritage Museum. "The cost for the membership is covered with the ticket cost. It's $10, and that's really the only requirement [to join].

"We just hope that you're interested in the legacy of Summer Hill and you would be willing to help with the history and preserve the history and keep it going too, so that we can have future programs for alumni or the community or children," she said, adding members are not required to be Bartow residents or Summer Hill alumni. "Included in the membership, you'll get access to the decision-making process, meaning you can come to the meetings. You'll be a part of the Heritage Group. You'll get a quarterly newsletter with information about Summer Hill, just updating alumni members of the group."

Starting at 3 p.m., the program titled The Legacy of Summer Hill also will include live entertainment provided by the Destiny Revealed band, a fashion show by The Curve Appeal boutique of Cartersville, food and vendors selling Summer Hill Blue Devil paraphernalia.

The offering will be held at 129 Aubrey St. in Cartersville, the site of the former Summer Hill High School that is now referred to as the Summer Hill Educational and Recreational Complex. The school, which sat vacant for about 30 years after closing in the early 1970s, was rebuilt in 2003 by the Etowah Area Consolidated Housing Authority using the original blueprints. The $1.5 million project enabled the Housing Authority to utilize the 10,000-square-foot facility for its after-school and GED programs, in addition to the Summer Hill Heritage Museum.

Along with enabling patrons to view pictorial history panels and the documentary "Summer Hill: A Story of Community," the museum also is preserving the personal histories of living and deceased African-American residents, such as Georgia Supreme Court Justice Robert Benham and the late Tuskegee Airman John Henry Morgan, Vietnam War Veteran Lorenza Conner, the Rev. Jackey Beavers and Hill's father, Matthew Douglas Hill.

In addition to operating the museum, the Summer Hill Heritage Group presented the African-American History: Past and Present program -- a free, five-week offering in February geared toward participants of the Summer Hill Educational and Recreational Complex's after-school program -- and the Spoken Word Contest for all students in grades one through 12.

For Hill, whose parents attended and taught at Summer Hill, the school provided a learning experience that extended past the classroom.

"[When I think of Summer Hill] I think of just not a school, I think of the community as a whole," Hill said. "The community was a vital part of black history in Cartersville. It had businesses. The parent-teacher association was really active. ... The teachers from what I understand didn't just teach you during school or teach you education. They gave you life lessons as well. They loved you.

"They genuinely took an interest in your life. I think that was a benefit that students had from going to Summer Hill. A lot of times they had subpar books and didn't get to take a lot of the field trips that white students got. But once they went off to college and started taking these standardized entrance exams, they realized that not only did they ace those exams but their education sometimes exceeded what other students had. ... Kids of Summer Hill didn't have the best of the best but they got the best of the best."

Echoing Hill's comments, Calvin Cooley fondly remembers his high school days at Summer Hill. Graduating from the school in 1966, the Cartersville resident now is supporting his alma mater as a member of the Summer Hill Heritage Group.

"I think history is important, period, and Cartersville and Bartow County have a proud record of preserving history throughout the city, county and Summer Hill also," Cooley said. "If you don't preserve your history, after a while it's forgotten and obliterated. And I think history is just a part of life, of growing up.

"One of the main memories that comes to my mind [about attending Summer Hill] is that almost everyone who graduated wanted to come back and impress their teachers as if they are making something out of their life, whether they are furthering their college education, in the workforce or in the military. They wanted to show that they got something from the educational [experiences] they went through. They were proud of it."

For more information about Saturday's program, contact Hill at 770-873-3146.