Sports a longtime source of pride for Hawthorne

Published: Saturday, June 16, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, June 17, 2012 at 12:04 a.m.

HAWTHORNE -- Hawthorne is not unlike many towns in North Florida. It does not have a bowling alley or a movie theater, but it does have a high school.

High schools in small towns like Hawthorne can be significant sources of pride.

This year, Hawthorne particularly needed something to feel good about. In late 2011, the town of 1,600 and the surrounding area shed about 400 jobs when the Georgia-Pacific plywood plant shut down.

At about the same time the bad news on the job front was spreading, the Hawthorne High School Hornets were beginning a trek that led them to a second-place finish in the Class 1A Boys State Basketball Tournament.

Success in sports is a longtime tradition in Hawthorne. It is the same school that several years ago turned out former Gator and now professional football player Cornelius Ingram.

When classes resume in August, school officials said they once again expect hundreds of students and area residents to turn out on Friday nights to watch the local football games.

While athletics have added fun and excitement to the school year, some of the Hawthorne students have opinions about what does -- or doesn't -- make their school experience worthwhile.

Ninth-grader Jayde Tidwell was wearing cowboy boots and emptying her locker between classes for one of the last times this past school year when she stopped to explain what made her school special.

"It's small. It's easier when it's small," Tidwell said. Among the benefits to attending a small school is that, "You get more one on one with the teachers. You get more help."

On the other side of campus, a group of middle school girls was in the cafeteria feeding nachos to each other and wishing they were at a much bigger school.

"I wish I went to a big school because you get in less drama, meet more people," said Jaliyah Williams. "It's not the same people every day, every year."

"I dislike a small school," said Ja'Quea Johnson. "I know everybody here. There's nobody new that I don't know."

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