ERNIE BROWN JR. Embrace East High and alumni at picnic

The Youngstown school board is overseeing the construction of a new high school on the city's East Side, but an event in August is being planned to bring together all people who either attended or graduated from the old East High School.
An all-EHS alumni picnic is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Aug. 16 at Roosevelt Park in Campbell. So there is no excuse about not having the time to stop by and say hello, rekindle old friendships and start new ones. Activities will be at the park's main pavilion.
The picnic is the first of several events being planned by a newly created East High School Alumni Association to celebrate the school's rich history.
The picnic is for anyone who ever attended or graduated from East High School and their families. Admission is free. Food has been donated from a variety of businesses and from association committee members.
A disc jockey from radio station WRBP will provide the musical entertainment.
Debra Countryman Jones (Class of 1971), acting secretary for the association, explained that the idea for an all alumni association came about when she was involved in planning her 30-year EHS reunion.
"A lot of individuals, not only from my class but others, thought it was a good idea to get an all alumni reunion committee formed," Debra said. Soon after, other EHS grads -- Paulette Smith, Paulette Davis, LaTonya Parker, Joyce Hunter, Lonita Ross, Jaladah Aslam, Larry Burton and others -- joined Debra and brainstormed to make the idea a reality.
John Jemison (Class of 1967) is association chairman and Jaladah (Class of 1978) is co-chairwoman.
Many of the Mahoning Valley's judges, lawyers, businessmen, sports celebrities, journalists, and union leaders either attended or graduated from the "school on the hill" at 1544 E. High Ave.
In its beginnings
The original school was built in 1925 and opened in 1926. The school board closed East as a high school in 1998 when it was converted to a middle school.
The building will be razed as part of the school district's plan to construct new school facilities to make way for a new East Side high school.
The school's longtime mascot name is the Golden Bears.
Oldtimers certainly will remember legendary football coaches Pete Lanzi and Dick Barrett and their high-powered teams.
Ed DiGregorio, retired head womens basketball coach at Youngstown State University, also coached and taught at East for many years.
The East Side was a great melting pot of races in the latter half of the 20th century. Blacks, Italians, Puerto Ricans and Irish Americans all attended the school and added to its rich cultural diversity.
Meetings open
The alumni association's meetings are open to all grads. Upcoming meetings are scheduled at noon at the school building July 12, July 26 and Aug. 9. Alumni association charter membership is $100.
The all-alumni picnic is the association's first major event. A second all-alumni gathering is tentatively planned for 2004 and the association intends to create a scholarship program for neighborhood children attending East Side schools.
The association wants to be a viable entity when the new East Side middle and high schools are completed.
I am asking all members of my class -- Class of 1970 -- to step up to participate to make the inaugural picnic a huge success. Donations can be in cash, food, soft drinks, paper products, produce, or just volunteering your time.
Fliers have been distributed throughout the East Side and other areas in churches, businesses and organizations announcing the picnic.
Open to all
Did I mention it is free and open to all EHS alumni?
I repeat myself because word somehow got out that not all races were invited to participate. Association officers said that is erroneous and ridiculous.
The East Side has never been about exclusion, and the alumni association wouldn't think about dissuading anyone from participating, they said.
So come on out to Roosevelt Park, sing the alma mater and fight song (if you can remember the words), check out whether the prom queens are still gorgeous, and have a great time. Remember: Once an East Sider, always an East Sider.

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