The Pinellas County Schools turned 100 this year. The community joined 20 high school cross-country runners to kick off the Centennial Celebration Saturday morning. The students traveled thePinellas Trail in pairs starting in Tarpon Springs and St. Petersburg and meeting in Largo's Taylor Park. The cross-county teams also made stops in Palm Harbor and Seminole.
From the north the Tarpon Springs High School team surrounded by cheers in the parking lot of Sweetbay traveled with the Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie. From the south the team from Gibbs and Lakewood High Schools in St. Petersburg heard the roar of rollerblades as skaters headed north with them.
“It was fun and I was really excited. I felt very honored. Everyone was cheering us on even the mayor,” said Jennifer Ko, a Tarpon Springs student.
Students loved participating in the Centennial relay. At least one student was the third-generation of his family to attend the Pinellas County Schools.
“I’ve been running since I was four. It’s just thrilling and keeps me active. I felt honored because anybody could have been chosen but they picked me," said DeVontae Persha, a Lakewood High School sophomore.
"I felt grateful," said Persha, whose parents and grandparents also attended schools in Pinellas County.
Community members came to encourage the students on the Pinellas Trail. The community members biked, ran and cheered.
“It’s a great way to get people out and moving and celebrating our schools,” said Melinda Burton-Cutliff, who came with her five-year-old daughter DeMarie to Taylor Park in Largo.
Educators celebrated the legacy of public education in Pinellas County. Although the schools have changed with new technology, educating children has remained a priority.
“I’m a firm believer in public education and public schools…Everybody still gets a good, public education. A good teacher is the most important thing,” said Sandra Cowley, Mildred Helms Elementary School principal.
The Pinellas County Public Schools will have a special celebration each month this school year for the Centennial. Corporate sponsors have covered the costs of the celebration.