Monday, April 15, 2024

Lafayette High School Celebrates 50th Anniversary

Lafayette High soon after opening. (Lafayette High School/WJCC Schools)

WILLIAMSBURG — In 1973, Lafayette High School opened its doors for the first time. 50 years later, the school is celebrating all who have passed through those doors.

History

Lafayette officially opened in 1973 — the sole high school in the Williamsburg area. Its first principal was James P. Wilson. According to a program from the school’s dedication ceremony, five years prior, a study was produced on the new vocational training needs of businesses within 50 miles of James City County. Students were surveyed regarding their interests in, and expectations of, a new academic and vocational curriculum.

The rapid expansion of housing in the 1990s and 2000s in Williamsburg saw overcrowding at Lafayette, leading to the opening of Jamestown High School in 1997 and Warhill High School in 2007.

Lafayette is the home of the Rams, leading the current administration to view “rams” as an acronym standing for a respectable, accountable, motivated, and safe student.

Student Experience

Four alumni: Melody Hundley, class of 1986; Lisa Marston, class of 1978; Anderton Ellis, class of 1977; and Roderick Crawford, class of 1976; spoke to WYDaily about their experiences as students.

Crawford spoke about the camaraderie between Lafayette students.

Lafayette students in the classroom in the 1970s. (Lafayette High School/WJCC Schools)

“I was a sophomore when the school opened in 1973,” Crawford said. “If there was bullying or something going on amongst students, there were always people who were going to take up for the person being teased. Nobody tolerated bullying, no matter who the person was that was being picked on, there was always someone who was going to take up for them,” Crawford said.

Marston, whose children also graduated from the school, was proud as a parent to see the Lafayette Ram experience live on, years after she graduated.

“My middle son graduated 30 years after me and so much of the same foundation was still here at Lafayette. The teachers, the good sports, the good memories, my kids loved Lafayette as much as I did. To see that those same values carried through the years, the same basis of school spirit, happiness, and good faculty, it goes to show the longevity that Lafayette stayed true to its basic foundations,” Marston said.

Henry Renz, Superintendent of WJCC Schools during the 1970s. (Lafayette High School/WJCC Schools)

Hundley ran track at the school.

“Lafayette was like a family. The teachers showed that they cared for us, it was just a community school because at the time it was the only high school in the area. The exposure we were given at the time was unbelievable. For me, I ran track and it was nothing for Coach Jones to take us to Penn Relays in Philadelphia, just for the exposure. We weren’t the best runners, we could hold our own of course, however, it was the exposure to other colleges, Olympians, and the opportunity to see life beyond Williamsburg,” Hundley said.

Ellis, who played football and basketball, now coaches basketball locally. He applies many of the tactics that he learned at Lafayette to his coaching career today.

“I coach at Jamestown and I still use many of the methods that were taught to me by my coaches I had here at Lafayette. At the time, I couldn’t see why some of the things were used but as I’ve traveled around the world, I could see where those things I was taught here at Lafayette made sense,” Ellis said.

All four are working alongside the rest of the alumni group to plan the homecoming events during the weekend.

Notable Alumni

Lafayette has produced many prominent NFL players. Mel Gray, kick returner for the Saints, Lions, Oilers, and Eagles; Chris Luzar, tight end for the Jaguars, Giants, and Patriots; Terrance Martin, nose tackle for the Texans and Bengals; Ron Springs, running back for the Cowboys and Buccaneers; and Lawerence Taylor, linebacker for the Giants all called the halls of Lafayette home before their big league careers in the NFL.

Lafayette students in the 1970s (Lafayette High School/WJCC Schools)

Other notable alumni include golfer Mark Carnevale; Michael Derks, guitarist for GWAR: track star Seneca Lassiter; Mark Morton, guitarist for Lamb of God; Major Anthony Mulhare, advance pilot/narrator for U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds; actor and producer Jessica Roulston; Dr. Alan Theodore Sherman, professor at UMBC and six-time national collegiate chess champion coach; country musician  Canaan Smith, professional wrestlers Ross and James Hall; and Philippe Warren, U.S. Navy Blue Angels Flight Surgeon.

2023 Celebrations

During the week of homecoming, Oct. 9-13, Lafayette High School is set to honor its past and present. Current students will participate in hall decorating, spirit week, parades and pep rallies, while alumni will celebrate at a 50th anniversary gala, the Lafayette High School Sports Hall of Fame induction and tailgating at the Lafayette/Tabb football game.

Principal Paul Rice is thrilled to be the principal during the 50th-year celebrations.

“Lafayette has a very storied history. It’s a great honor to be at the helm during the 50th anniversary. To have such great alumni and a fantastic student body, it’s a great community, it’s a great set of students, our staff still has that loving and caring mentality, and it’s such an honor to be the head Ram,” Rice said.

A full schedule of homecoming and 50th anniversary events can be found here.

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