August 6th, 2013
03:12 PM ET

New Atlanta high school features rifle range

(CNN) - A new high school opening in Atlanta this week will feature 11 stories of space for students - and a new rifle range. The space will be used by Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps and rifle team members, and will be under the direction of a trained educator, CNN affiliate WSB reported. The range will be used for compressed air-powered pellet rifles, and is modeled after an existing range at another Atlanta high school, but some parents and students said it raised safety questions.

Making moves toward unity
May 24th, 2013
01:27 PM ET

Grads leave lasting legacy: Integrated prom

By Jamie Gumbrecht, CNN

(CNN) - On Saturday, 68 seniors will graduate from Wilcox County High School in South Georgia, leaving behind a legacy that could last long after they’ve said their goodbyes: Next year, for the first time, their high school will host a prom.

It’s a new tradition in their small rural community, one they hope will eliminate their county’s custom of private, racially segregated proms.

A small group from 2013’s senior class sparked the idea of an integrated prom this year, bucking 40 years of high school tradition.

When their county’s racially segregated schools combined in the early 1970s, the school called off its homecoming dance and prom; it was a volatile time at the newly integrated school, alumni said, and parents and school leaders were wary of black and white students attending the same dance. Like in many other Southern communities, Wilcox County students and parents stepped in to plan private, off-site parties, complete with formal gowns, tuxedos, DJs and décor.

But long after outward racial tension died down, the private, segregated parties in Wilcox County remained - a quiet reminder of racism, students said.

This year, a few white and black seniors organized a prom open to all Wilcox County High School students, whether white, black, Latino or Asian.

"If we're all together and we love each other the way we say we do, then there are no issues,"  integrated prom organizer and Wilcox County senior Mareshia Rucker said during the dance in April. "This is something that should have happened a long time ago."

Their campaign drew international media attention and an outpouring of online support and donations of money, prom dresses and DJ services. It also drew some criticism from students and parents who liked the old tradition, and community members who worried about the negative light cast on their small town.

Scenes from Wilcox County students' first integrated prom

Regardless of the ups and downs, students said, they would have preferred an official school prom instead of a private, integrated event off-campus.

Next year, it’s happening.

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Filed under: Georgia • High school • Prom