Mobile County Public Schools officials broke ground Monday on the new Dr. Lonnie G. Johnson Educational Complex at Williamson High School.
Named for the 1968 graduate who invented the Super Soaker water gun and who was a successful engineer for the Air Force and NASA, the wing will have eight classrooms/science labs, an office and a multi-purpose room. It will measure about 12,000-square feet and will be completed in about 14 months.
“What an exciting day for Williamson High School and this community,” MCPSS Superintendent Chresal Threadgill said to a crowd of about 180 Williamson supporters gathered in the gym for the ceremony.
“We sincerely thank each of you for the outpouring of support for our school and community,” Threadgill added. “Although we have a lot more work to do, this is only the beginning of what is in store for Williamson High School.”
School board members Robert Battles and Don Stringfellow, Mobile City Councilman Levon Manzie, state Sen. Vivian Figures, and state Reps. Barbara Drummond, Adline Clarke and Sam Jones, were among those attending.
“This is about self-pride and the opportunities that we are providing here at Williamson,” Battles said. “Our students can excel. Today shows that the superintendent and the board and the instructors and the community are part of a unifying effort at Williamson.”
Also on Monday, MCPSS named a science lab for longtime Williamson teacher Walter Ward, who had enough confidence in Johnson as a student that he drove him to a statewide robotics competition at the University of Alabama in 1968.
Johnson, who came from a segregated school, won first-place in the competition.
Johnson said he was proud to be a catalyst for good things that are taking place at Williamson.
“Williamson is stepping up in a way that makes me feel proud and excited,” Johnson said of the new complex.
WHS graduate Johnnie Kennedy was also recognized. Johnson and Kennedy have worked to bring the FIRST Robotics program to Williamson. Twenty-two students are on the team, which will travel to Huntsville this spring to compete. The teams is being led by WHS teacher Jeremy Stadford, and local scientists from the community are mentoring the team members.
“I think it is a phenomenal and great opportunity for us to compete statewide with the FIRST Robotics program,” Battles said. “Williamson has the only one in south Alabama.”
Mobile City Councilman Levon Manzie presented Williamson’s robotics team with a $10,000 check during the ceremony.
Kennedy left Williamson students four tips for success:
- Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and compete at Williamson.
- Set high goals for yourself.
- Don’t let the fear of failure prevent you from reaching your goals.
- Commit to continuous improvement.
“Students can compete with anyone anywhere as long as they prepare themselves and put in the work,” he said.