'A source of hope': Newport couple revitalizes W.F. Branch High School
NEWPORT,AR- A 35,000 sq.ft building sits in the heart of the black community in Newport but will soon become more than just a school for black students.
The Newport Colored School, later named W.F. Branch High School will now become a place where people can come and benefit from their own.
“We want to continue to allow this building to be filled with purpose and meaning and let it mean something to the new generation. The same way that it did to the one that was previously here,” Latasha Robinson said.
The school served students of color from several places like Pocahontas, Wynne, and Newport.
It officially closed in 1970, but the Robinsons plan to restore the building for their eco-system.
The $1M project will include a black history museum, community center, hotel, medical clinic, and more.
The Robinsons formed a nonprofit group, branch, bringing resources, and navigating community help to revitalize the space, after the death of George Floyd.
“We want to be a place where you can say I have this idea, but I may not have all the money. But as long as somebody believes in you and steps up to be able to support you, the possibilities are endless. So, we want to be a source of hope,” Robinson said.
A local resident who was one of the last graduates from the high school is proud to see something good come from it.
“I think it’s a great idea. Something for the little children or grown-ups to go instead of just walking down the street. It’s nothing for the youngers to do, so I think that will be a great idea,” 1970 W.F Branch High School graduate, Linda McKinney said.
After 3 years of work, they are making progress.
Latasha Robinson says they want to honor those who attended the school because it is history. They created a Go Fund Me for people to purchase a brick for anyone that attended the school this will go along the sidewalk of the building.
All funding will go towards the completion of the project.
“Spooning feeding somebody hope just with support, encouragement, a nice word, it can take you far. So, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to be a source of hope to spoon feed to people to let them know that you can do great things in your community right where you are and the things that you put your hands to, they do matter, and it will be written in history for somebody well after you’re gone. So, what are you going to do with your time that you have here,” Robinson said.
The Robinsons plan to have the building complete by 2023 in time for the 100th anniversary of the building.