Laurel Hill School Family Takes a Look Back....and Forward

Laurel Hill Mayor Robby Adams visits with former Hobo basketball player Jerry Senterfitt, a 1959 graduate of Laurel Hill School.

By BRIAN HUGHES
Special to OkaloosaSchools.com

The sign that greeted visitors to a special Laurel Hill School assembly the evening of January 25 pronounced the beloved institution, “A really small school with a lot of love.”

What attendees discovered — as if they already didn’t know — was that it is also a school steeped in lots of history and boasting a culture of close-knit family, community, and achievement.

And spirit. Lots of spirit, as evidenced as the evening kicked off with demonstrations of agility by the school’s cheerleaders, who were soon joined by representatives from each of the four Hobo Houses: Courage, Perseverance, Comradery, and Integrity.

The ensemble debuted the school’s new anthem, “This is the Greatest School,” adopted from “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack. 

Laurel Hill School traces its roots back 128 years to the establishment of Green Branch School near the present-day site of Okaloosa County’s northernmost incorporated municipality.

The kindergarten-through-12th-grade school — one of only two in the county, the other being Baker School — embraces the creed of the free-spirited American Hobo, which provides it with what perhaps is the nation’s most unique of school mascots.

It is not unusual for a student to spend his or her entire undergraduate academic career as a proud wearer of the blue and gold. Nor for that student to be carrying on a proud family tradition.

“It’s really cool because my grandma went here as well,” Donald Walker, a 2009 alumnus, said. “You already have that vibe when you start here. You realize the building has history, but you don’t really realize how much until you leave and come back.” 

He and his grandmother, Erie Childs Adamson, walked the hallways, carefully perusing multiple historic displays, copies of old yearbooks, rosters and framed photos of decades worth of graduating classes, and a display of Laurel Hill history mounted by the Laurel Hill Presbyterian Church and the Baker Block Museum.

“Some of the kids we’re seeing here were grandchildren of people I went to school with,” Mrs. Adamson said.

The event’s organizer, teacher Lena Steele, smiled broadly as she watched younger generations connecting with older folks — and linking themselves to their school’s past as they did so.

“If they have a better understanding of where they came from, it helps to build spirit and pride in their school,” Mrs. Steele said. “There’s so much rich history here, and in the town.”

“Miss Lena has done a great job of making those connections,” Laurel Hill School Principal Lee Martello said. “That’s what this is all about. Our connections.”

Article and Photos compliments of BRIAN HUGHES  |  Special to Okaloosaschools.com. (Except as noted with photo Laurel Hill School history 3: Credit is Baker Block Museum)