Worthing High School supporters gathered Thursday to celebrate the grand opening of a long-awaited classroom wing, which supporters said will serve as a source of pride, excitement, and hope for both students and the surrounding Sunnyside community.
“We are Worthing!” Houston Independent School District Board of Education Trustee Wanda Adams said as she kicked off the Grand Opening celebration. “If you are happy to get to this day, let me hear you get excited! This is a celebration. Let’s get excited for Worthing High School!”
Worthing is among 40 schools across the district being renovated or rebuilt as part of HISD’s voter-approved 2012 Bond Program. Construction is currently underway at nearly two-dozen campuses — more than at any other time in district history. Once all work is complete, HISD will boast of one of the most modern portfolios of urban high schools in the nation.
The new two-story wing that opened Thursday — the first part of plan to rebuild Worthing High School — features learning centers, science labs, and career and technology education spaces, as well as a collegiate-style lecture hall. Plenty of windows allow natural light to fill the brightly colored classrooms, open staircases, and long corridors featuring green and gold terrazzo tile floors.
Students will attend classes in the new wing while construction crews work on the next phase of the $30 million, 90,000-square-foot project, which calls for a new facility housing up to 1,300 students and incorporating the recently-completed addition. The project is expected to be finished in 2018.
“I love it,” Spencer Rogers, a 2003 Worthing graduate, said as he jokingly asked if it was too late for him to re-enroll in the school. “It’s been a long time coming. It helps the community. It gives the community hope. I’m grateful the next generation gets to bask in this.”
The Grand Opening celebration drew hundreds of Worthing supporters, including professional athletes and several national, state and local dignitaries. Among the dignitaries in attendance were U.S. Congressman Al Green, State Sen. Rodney Ellis, State Rep. Alma Allen, State Rep.-Elect Shawn Thierry, State Board of Education Member Lawrence Allen, City of Houston Director of Education Juliet Stipeche representing Mayor Sylvester Turner, City Council Member Dwight Boykins, and Constable May Walker, as well as representatives from the offices of Council Member Amanda Edwards and County Commissioner Gene Locke. Also in attendance were retired professional athletes and Worthing graduates Clifford Branch and Greg Wayne “Cadillac” Anderson.
The Grand Opening was held in conjunction with the dedication of a custom mural hanging in the learning commons. The artwork — entitled Each One Teach One — was commissioned by Worthing alumna Marye Dean, ’99.
Designed to emphasis the importance of education and community support, the artwork features State Sen. Rodney Ellis, ‘72, being lifted up by his third-grade teacher, State Rep. Alma Allen. Both Ellis and Allen served as mentors to Dean, helping her along her journey to becoming a successful attorney in New York.
“I’m so proud,” Dean said, smiling as she displayed her Worthing High School letter jacket to the crowd. “I’m in a letter jacket. In Texas. In August. That’s how proud I am.”
Dean, Ellis and Allen received special recognition during the Grand Opening. Each was presented with a framed picture of the mural. Following Dean’s remarks, Ellis and Allen took the podium together as they talked of Worthing’s great history and its tradition of producing successful graduates.
“Don’t let anybody say out of these inner city schools you can’t graduate, you can’t get a good education, you can’t go on to do things that matter to you,” Ellis urged the crowd. “Especially if you’ve got good teachers.”
Allen, a former teacher, echoed his sentiments.
“You never know who’s in your classroom,” Allen said, stopping to smile at Ellis. “You teach children as if all of them are going to be the president of the United States.”
Also celebrated during the Grand Opening was the dedication of three Golden Footballs awarded to Worthing through the Super Bowl High School Honor Roll. The footballs are awarded to schools who have had graduates on Super Bowl teams.
Adding to the celebration was a special musical selection by gospel recording artist and Worthing Alumna Kathy Taylor, ‘79.
Following the program, Trustee Adams and Principal Duane Clark joined with fellow dignitaries for a ceremonial ribbon cutting in the hallway leading to the new addition.
Worthing High School Principal Duane Clark said he was inspired and excited by the grand opening.
“I’m really looking forward to the new year,” Clark said, as he toured the building with his guests after the program had concluded. “It’s exciting to see all the support and pride we have for Worthing High School.”