Central’s Rich History of Student Involvement Encourages the Return of Clubs and Student Aides

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Donated to the Digest

CENTRAL’S LONG HISTORY OF STUDENT INVOLVEMENT — CHS bookstore and usher armbands sit in a display case honoring Central’s past.

Sarah Katheron Latham, Assistant Editor

Attention, Central Alumni! Do you remember the armbands the ushers and bank staff would wear? Do you remember being on a staff (bank, bookstore, library, office, guidance) and investing in your school?

During the February Alumni Association meeting, President, Buffy Hoge announced she had acquired a “CHS BOOKSTORE” armband from an estate sale in Chattanooga. The armband currently lies beside a similar one labeled “usher” in a casing in the library. The armbands speak of a time in Central’s history where students were involved in every aspect of their school: bank staff, ushers, bookstore staff, library staff, office staff, etc. The latter positions may seem familiar to current Central students, but the former positions are memories of days gone by; however, COVID-19 has resulted in the elimination of guidance, office, and library staff.

Since the founding of Central High School in 1907, students have been strongly invested in their school from putting out yearbooks and newspapers to participating in school sponsored clubs. Over 33 clubs and extracurricular groups were pictured in the 1933 Champion: the Lettermen’s club, boy’s Hi-Y, Ukulele club, Etiquette club, and others including several literary, artistic, and foreign language clubs. In a time hit with economic depression, there was a Depression club (not having to do with the mental illness).

Bank staff served in the Central bank and operated the Central bookstore, which sold school supplies to students. Students could set up personal accounts with which they could pay school fees and other school related purchases.

“At Central High School, the banking business is learned through actual experience. The students handle all money realized on school theatricals, school publications, and various school activities. A number of students have established their individual bank accounts during the school year. This enables the bank employees in the school bank to handle personal accounts as as well as those of larger organizations,” the 1926 Champion explained.

Some staffs were phased out, as they were no longer needed. Ushers, who directed traffic in hallways, became less important. School bankers became irrelevant with the increasing prevalence of digital banking. However, other staff members did stay on in the position of aides to teachers and faculty.  Until recently, aides worked in the library, main office, guidance office, and teacher’s classrooms helping faculty in their tasks.

“When people are involved in what they’re doing they have more ownership, and they care more about it and they’re not disconnected from what they’re doing. That’s with anything, your job, your work in your home, you care more about it when you make payments on it. I think it’s the same idea with clubs and organizations…that’s what makes school fun. If you can’t have your tribe of people that you hang out with and you aren’t really interested in anything and you don’t have any passions, what’s the point of getting up in the morning,” said Melinda Martin, Central’s librarian.

The abundance of clubs and extracurricular activities continued throughout Central’s life, but school involvement and responsibilities cannot compare to that of the 20th century Central students. Not only has there been a decline in recent years concerning extracurricular activities, but COVID-19 also put an abrupt pause on all extracurricular activities and student aide work. At-home learning has left students more isolated and disconnected from their school than ever before.

Nonetheless, efforts are being made to increase students’ connection to Central in the form of clubs. A plan is ‘in the works’ to form several interest-based clubs that will meet during the lunch period or “advisory.”  It is unclear whether or not students will be able to fill aide positions again in the 2021-22 school year.