Alumni and staff from Harrison High School in west Cobb took a walk down memory lane this past weekend while many of the school’s first graduating seniors gathered for their 20th class reunion.
Harrison, located off Due West Road in Kennesaw, opened in the fall of 1991 as a ninth-through-11thgrade school. Its first class graduated in 1993. Harrison’s first students set trends including voting on the Hoya mascot and other traditions.
“That first day of school was really interesting because it was back before social media, so we didn’t know until the first day who was going to be there,” said reunion coordinator and graduate Mardee Coyle Austin, who now lives in Seattle.
She was one of 215 who transferred from North Cobb High in Kennesaw and graduated 20 years ago from Harrison.
About 60 students from the 38-year-old’s class attended Harrison’s homecoming game Friday night against North Cobb and were recognized during half-time. On Saturday night, they gathered for their reunion party at Elevation Chophouse restaurant in Kennesaw.
Jeff Picken, Harrison’s first student to be accepted into college in 1992 and now a Kennesaw business owner, said it was great seeing everyone this weekend.
“Some people hadn’t changed at all, and some people were totally different,” said 38-year-old Picken.
Picken’s wife and classmate Kristin Lanfair Picken also helped with the reunion. The couple now lives in Marietta and have a 2-yearold daughter, Cora.
He, like 80 percent of the other students in his school during that time, chose to attend Harrison and transferred from North Cobb. The other 20 percent came from McEachern High in Powder Springs.
“I did not enjoy North Cobb, but Harrison was also closer to my house and just knowing that everybody that was going to be there was by choice, including faculty, made it a good choice,” he said.
Kristin Duncan, who now lives in Paulding County but transferred to Harrison from McEachern her junior year, agreed.
“For me, Harrison gave me the opportunity to start new, start fresh,” she said. “It was exciting.”
The school opened serving fewer than 1,000 freshmen, sophomores and juniors. Many high schools in Cobb now have more than 2,000 students.
“It was very small at first, not at all like it is now where you can barely move through the halls,” Duncan said.
Dexter Mills, 62, was the first principal at Harrison and came from North Cobb. He helped plan the school’s construction and opening in 1990.
He said they opened with 945 ninth- through 11th-grade students. During the first graduation ceremony in June 1993, the wife of the school’s namesake Carl Harrison, Betty Harrison, handed out diplomas.
“I loved the whole experience,” Mills said.
He remained the school’s leader until 1998 and when he left, Harrison served about 3,200 students in all four grades and there were 36 trailers on the campus. This was all before Allatoona, Kennesaw Mountain and Hillgrove high schools were built.
“We also had a tremendous group of parents to help start that school, and they were hardworking parents,” Mills said. “They wanted our school to be a good school, so it was really a lot of fun working with those parents, who also had the unique opportunity to creating a new school.”
Scott Schomer, who is now Harrison’s chair of the science department, was one of the first teachers who chose to be there. He was 25 years old at the time.
“We really felt like a family,” said Schomer, 47. “We definitely had an opportunity to get to know other people in a real genuine way because the population was small.”
The school now serves about 2,000 students and 23 years later, Schomer said he still enjoys it.
“I like the people that I teach with, the students and the community, he said. “There’s just so many good things about it and I know that any place that you go there will be positives and negatives and never really entertained the idea of going to a new place.”