A Reflection of My Public School Education
I always loved when school started in the fall (my favorite season). The excitement of getting to see my friends everyday, learning new things and usually a new pair of shoes! It was no different when going into 6th grade. The Little Rock Public School District started the desegregation busing program. Some of my friends were put in private schools as parents chose not to have their child go to class with black children. This was my first real awareness of discrimination. Some students I was in school with spread fear of what would happen to us attending an integrated school – “They will cut off your long hair” or “Beat you.” Despite being a little nervous, I quickly found everything was no big deal. I had my first black teachers for Math, Science and English. They were excellent! The kids that were bused to our school were polite, smart and friendly. I had a great year. I attended Horace Mann and Dunbar Jr. High Schools before going to Little Rock Central High School.
My years at LRCHS were also good. Both my parents graduated from Central. My mother graduated with the class of 1958 and saw the riots firsthand. She said most of the students were not involved with the mob crowds and inside the school was nothing like the outside. My grandfather, Gene Smith, was chief-of-police at that time and worked to keep the 9 black students safe from violence. I feel I grew up in a family who taught acceptance and fairness.
My education at Central was good although looking back I could have been a better student. My teachers were caring and competent and always encouraged me to achieve. I met my best friend and husband my sophomore year. We have been married 37 years, have 3 children and 5 grandchildren. We are fortunate to be living our dream and advocate equality and impartiality through our family and involvement in our community.
I feel that diversity at LRCH during my years there gave me a better life experience for living in this world. I find it frustrating the our country still has so much bigotry and prejudice. I know coming together as a class again will rejuvenate my hope to eliminate discrimination. The Class of ‘78 is truly GREAT!
Mignon Smith Gastman