The students of Central High School's class of 1984 are largely celebrating their 55th birthdays in 2021. To celebrate – and remember the classmates they've lost through the years – the class of 1984 presented their alma mater with a $5,000 check Tuesday.

The donation's purpose is to alleviate some costs associated with the school's Ready-to-Work program, but some of the funds were made in remembrance of classmates who've since passed away.

“Out of nearly 600 graduates, we have had more than 50 pass away way too soon,” said Rebecca Todd Minder, CHS84 reunions committee and co-fundraiser coordinator, in a press release. “Creating a fundraiser that would honor our departed friends and then also benefit future Central graduates just made sense. It is also a wonderful way to include those of us who live too far away, or because of pandemic restrictions, couldn’t travel back home to Tuscaloosa to get together.”

Central's 1984 class was a special one, as its students were the first to go all four years to a newly integrated school. The federal government mandated that all Tuscaloosa institutions were to integrate in 1979, so the class of 1984 was the most diverse the school had ever seen.

Minder reminisced on the tight-knit community the class of 1984 turned into. But, she said, it was not such an easy transition at first.

“We were a powerhouse Class 6A school,” Minder said. “After a rocky first year, our class quickly realized the benefit of bringing all of the students in the City of Tuscaloosa together. We became very close and supportive of one another, and that has continued for more than 40 years.”

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The press release explained that the class of 1984 chose Central's Ready-to-Work program due to its current graduating classes not having as many opportunities to go to college. Funneling money into programs that can prepare students for the workforce allows recent graduates to jump right into the workforce upon graduation, offering them valuable skills in some of West Alabama's most sought-after trades.

Students spend time completing a "combination of coursework and practical experiences" during their time in the program, emerging from the semester with skills and certifications in industries for which they have an interest in pursuing a career.

"This training includes tours of the work sites, speakers from the various industries, interview training with Human Resource professionals, and on-site employment interviews," the Tuscaloosa City Schools website reads. "The culminating activities include a reception for the students, parents, and stakeholders as well as commencement exercises where the students are recognized. Our goal continues to be 100% job placement."

According to the Tuscaloosa City Schools website, students are being prepared for specific jobs in the following fields:

  • Manufacturing
  • Automotive work
  • Construction
  • Personal finance
  • Healthcare
  • Logistics
  • Hospitality

“We want to see today’s students thrive, and success is not always guaranteed because you have a two-year or four-year degree,” Minder said in the press release. “This program will allow students a real chance to succeed and to also remain in the Tuscaloosa community. It’s a win-win-win for the students, the local businesses, and our hometown.”

For more information on Central's Ready-to-Work program, click here.

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