The news at Henry High School

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This article was written by Tom Murray and Susan Breedlove

Henry High School continues on its multimillion, multiyear architectural restructuring of school grounds and physical structure that has already yielded a spacious front entrance and a breathtaking new auditorium. Paul Compton, teacher coordinator of the Asian Culture Club noted, “We are absolutely thrilled with the auditorium renovation. Our students have long since deserved a modern theatre for showcasing their amazing talents as actors, singers, musicians and dancers from the diverse student population that attend our school. From modern hip-hop performances, to traditional showcases from our Asian community, to emerging stage performers in our plays, these improvements to PHHS will finally give our students the technology and theatre design elements they deserve to enhance the incredible raw talent present in our building.”

On October 25 a similar additional dramatic restructuring also took place.  This effort, however, involved the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, United Health Care and CBS EcoMedia, along with more than 100 volunteers who completed their work that day and the next on October 26 resulting in sparkling makeovers of the downstairs gymnasium, staff workroom and community gardens on Morgan Avenue.

Mayor Frey kicked-off the event with the announcement that he had never received such an enthusiastic welcome as that at Henry. He was sincere and honest. Students had greeted and cheered Mayor Frey and other community dignitaries from the moment they entered the spacious new front entrance until they reached the lower gym where they assembled into various work groups.

At the completion of the lower gym renovation, baseball Hall of Famer and Ripken Foundation co-chair Cal Ripken, Jr. participated in the gym’s first fitness clinic. “Today, I was lucky enough to meet and work with several coaches and mentors in the North Minneapolis community. They’re making real change in this community by using athletics to improve the lives of at-risk youth. It’s an honor for us to work with such dedicated community organizations and members,” he said.

Lynne High, Communications Director at United Health Care, and a 1971 Henry High
School graduate who married her fellow classmate and Henry High School sweetheart David High, marveled at how Henry had changed in her first visit back since graduation. “Wow, it’s really changed a lot, but in some ways, like today, when it’s a beautiful Fall day. . . As I was walking through the neighborhood I had the very same feelings as when I was a student back in 1971.”

One change that High noted was the numerous Hmong students who graciously greeted workers to the school and then rolled up their sleeves to lead them in the work. One such student, Keng Thao, who will graduate in June of 2019 relished the day’s opportunity: “To me, this means it’s more than a community coming together—it’s like a family pulling together for the same purpose of making our school great.” Another Hmong Henry alum, State Representative Fue Lee from the class of 2009, also noted the many beneficial changes to the physical environment just since his relatively recent graduation.

The gathering of volunteers included Shannon Loecher, Director of Social Responsibility at United Health Care.  She solemnly reflected on the changes to the physical structure of the school that educated her grandmother, Jeanne DeGault, who attended Henry when it was a junior high school (students who graduated from Henry then progressed to North High School). DeGault has since passed, but would have been 96 years old at the time of this project.

From an airplane one can still see the original structural foundation in the form of an H before the gymnasium and library sections were added onto the school.  However, the inside of the building continues to change dramatically with the biggest change, air conditioning of the entire school, on pace to be fully functioning by the start of the next school year.

Photo by CBS EcoMedia.