Union Academy’s tradition in Bartow was recalled by a few voices Wednesday as it became the latest member of the Bartow Chamber of Commerce.
Existing since 1923 as a black school until 1969, it has a history of producing well known people and has recently has become one of two non-high schools in the county to be known as an International Baccalaureate school.
The school’s principal, Brenda Hardman, said prior to the ribbon cutting, the school is part of the three-legged stool, which includes education, the businesses and the community.
“I can’t do this without you,” she said. “Our job is to get them educated and get them out there to your businesses.”
Along with touting the effort in to keep educated children in Polk County Tuesday, Union was one of a few schools in Bartow to take advantage of the Great American Teach-In, where approximately 20 people from the workforce — most who work in Bartow — spoke to classes.
The teach-in is a county-wide event where students hear from community members who will inspire them to keep focused and looking ahead to the future.
The fact that Union is among the best schools in Polk County is something people Tuesday presented with pride.
“This is a great occasion and we should recognize this as such,” Vice Mayor Pat Huff said Wednesday. “The City of Bartow has supported and has been proud of this academy. A good school is necessary for a good, good city and I also think the principal and teachers should be recognized for being certified as Polk County’s newest IB school.”
“There are two IB schools in our little town,” he said with pride.
Pride was also shown by the handful of alumni who showed up for the ribbon cutting.
“We’re carrying on a legacy,” Anngarnetta Woodruff, a 1965 graduate, said. “This school was what made us well-educated and well-disciplined.” She said she attended the school from the first grade through her senior year in high school.
Though not a student alumni, Lea Ann Thomas, the Chamber’s president, pointed out she was a teacher at Union in the 1980s when the school was a middle school.
“Our motto is this is the home of the champions,” said George Sabb, who graduated from there in 1962. “A lot of excellence has come out of this school and you’re continuing that legacy.”