"I think the students get along great. There’s really not like a — I don’t think there’s a conscious division. I think there’s a sense of comfort because, like, if you go out to eat and you’re going by yourself, you’re going to sit with the people you know instead of the people you don’t know. That’s just how human nature works. So, it’s that kind of thing. Every now and again you will see, oh, hey, Cleveland High kids are sitting on this side of the classroom and the East Side [kids] are sitting on this side of the classroom, but it’s not ever like a, 'Oh, I want to fight' kind of thing. A division really occurs with the teachers, though. That’s what I’ve noticed. But, I mean, like, everybody wears their Trojan stuff and their Wild Cat stuff and I really felt like it was going to be a big deal, but it’s really not. No one ever gets upset about it, and I think that’s good."
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"I think the [segregationist label] our school was given sets us back so many years, it’s ridiculous. Like, the way it was talked about made it seem like we were this heavy, racist town that needs to be taken care of. We weren’t. It was not like that. But I guess if it makes other people feel more comfortable that we have one school, I guess that was what was going to happen but I really didn’t see a need for it."
Behind the Headlines Q&A
Mississippi Today: How has the year been?
Ava Lubin: It’s been good. It was rocky around homecoming, but that was to be expected. But after that it’s really been OK because we haven’t really had anything else come up. It’s written into the rules now that every grade has to have a community service project and the juniors, we had ours.
MT: What are you hoping for next year, for your senior year?
AL: I want the school to have traditions of its own. There was nothing combined this year. The East Side’s big thing was they didn’t get a coronation. Next year they get a coronation. We (Cleveland High School) have victory bonfire, which is what we did. We had that this year. I just feel like they get coronation, we get victory bonfire, but we also move along with stuff we can make new. And that’s not something they’re thinking of doing this year. And so like, just stuff like that. Trying to include everyone and getting those people who didn’t go to Cleveland High and didn’t go to East Side - something that they can be excited about for their traditions as we were for ours.
MT: What were your expectations for the year going into it, and how has that matched up to with what actually has happened?
AL: When I went into it I was terrified of the East Side teachers. Like absolutely terrified. I was like, ‘The’re going to be mean to us. They’re going to be extra hard.’ Because (East Side) had all the good teachers. Our teachers aren’t bad, but the good academics were over at East Side. So I was like, ‘These classes are going to be so hard. I’m going to lose my mind.’ I was really concerned about that part of it and also how divided the kids would be. And the teachers, they really aren’t that bad. I’m not scared of them anymore.
MT: So they’re rigorous but they’re nice.
AL: Yeah. That’s the way it should be, too. We should have had that at the beginning versus what we actually had. I’m really impressed by the East Side teachers. So they had all the good teachers. I’m glad it’s all put together now and there’s really not (division) among the students either except my grade (juniors). I don’t know why my grade is just messy but generally the students are all together because we’ve all grown up together. The majority of people either all went to school together any way and then it got divided in middle school. So everybody was just comfortable with the majority of everybody anyway and it’s really not bad. I’m really pleased with how it did come together. Of course there are logistics that need to be changed and worked on … but the social aspect of it is just so much better than I thought it was going to be. And it’s just going to keep on getting better when people get more comfortable. When our ninth graders are seniors I think it’s going to be perfect because you’ll have years to get adjusted and you’ll have years for that mindset to leave because no one then will have been a Wild Cat or a Trojan.
MT: Are you worried that white kids are going to leave the school?
AL: Little bit. But there’s nothing that you can do about that. I don’t think it’s going to go downhill. I don’t think the education is going to go down. I think the education is only going to get better. The majority of the white kids who left were in the younger grades. We had maybe a handful of my grade leave, but it was a lot of middle schoolers. And if you have white kids in middle schools now, why would they change? That’s the way I look at it. I would get scared if the town itself went down because if the town goes down then education will go down. But I don’t think the town is going to go down anytime soon. I think it all just depends on outside circumstances.