If the three dozen alumni gathered Tuesday afternoon at Columbus High School needed another reminder about the positive impact the newly established Endowment for Excellence can make, then John Flournoy's story sure gave them a powerful one.
Flournoy recalled meeting a student years ago while interviewing candidates for an award from the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Chattahoochee Valley. The boy had transferred to Columbus High and told Flournoy, "I went from being bullied and criticized for playing the violin to a school where everybody wanted me to do well. It's a whole different environment."
That student now is a successful attorney in town and serves on the club's board.
"This is how it ought to be," Flournoy said.
And more students now will have such an opportunity, thanks to the Endowment for Excellence.
The Columbus High School Alumni Association has raised more than $350,000 from more than 150 contributions since the endowment began two years ago. The money helps students fully participate in the liberal arts magnet program by funding fees for Advanced Placement tests, educational trips and academic competitions. Morton Harris, the association's president, said the group also wants to help students pay for SAT fees and visit colleges.
"Columbus High has demonstrated what public education can successfully do in developing the lives of determined students who come from diverse social, cultural and economic backgrounds throughout our community," Harris said.
The goal is to increase the endowment to $1 million in the 2013-14 campaign.
Before that, alumni paused to celebrate their success already. They unveiled a bronze plaque in the school's courtyard to honor the endowment's founding donors. They also dedicated a donor book, which will record all contributions to the endowment and be kept in the school's alumni room.
Columbus High principal Marvin Crumbs thanked the alumni for their support -- not only financially.
"Your spirit is the most important thing, the kind words and encouragement and guidance," he said. "These students that you see standing in the back, they will remember this day forever. It will put them on a path toward giving back."