Thousands of students across the state are preparing to graduate from high schools in the coming days, but for one local teen, graduation is made even more special because he shares a unique connection with his grandmother. Pearl Anderson Iverson graduated from Townsend Park High School in the Dollarway School District in 1967 during the era of racial segregation. Fifty years later, her grandson, Devontae Brown, will graduate from Dollarway High School in 2017. He is the son of Earlene Brown and Dennis Brown.
Ernestine Roberts, the principal of the James Matthews Elementary School in the Dollarway School District, said that during the racial segregation of the 1950s and 1960s, the Dollarway School District included Townsend Park High School and Townsend Park Elementary School for black students, along with Pine Crest Elementary School, Dollarway Elementary School, and Dollarway High School for white students.
After racial integration occurred, Townsend Park Elementary School remained in operation until 2016, Roberts, who has a doctorate degree in education, said. Iverson grew up in an era of racial segregation and beamed with pride while discussing Devontae's academic accomplishments.
“I think it is a blessing to graduate 50 years after I finished high school,” Iverson said. “He is an honor student. It makes me feel good to do down the same halls and see the same gym in the same location.”
She smiles while discussing the fact that public schools today serve all children of all colors in the same space.
“I think it's nice,” Iverson said. “It gives the kids more to learn and experience. They can learn more and have a better experience than when we did when we were in school. They can advance more and go to different places than back in the 60s. They can go to college or wherever they want to go.”
Devontae Brown, 18, plans to enroll at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and study industrial technology in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics [STEM] Program under Charles Colen. He will be starting a STEM program in June. Brown said he conversed with Colon during a career fair and heard about lucrative careers in industrial technology.
“It's just a blessing,” Brown said. “Coming from where we stay, most kids don't get to make it to see this far.”
Brown welcomes the current state of public schools with respect to racial integration. He has heard stories about racial segregation from the not-too-distant past.
“At Dollarway, it's not as many white kids,” Brown said. “But it's enough white kids. We are cool with each other. There is no animosity between any of us. We are like family.”
Brown loves to study math, psychology, and English, and play football and baseball. He takes part in community service projects with the Targeting Our People's Priorities with Service [TOPPS], a nonprofit organization committed to providing a safe haven for young people and building positive social bonds.
TOPPS was founded by Annette Dove in 2002.
“I was in the fourth grade and a lady directed me to Ms. Dove,” Brown said. “She said they do tutoring and they really take care of kids so I decided to join. She's been there for me ever since.”
Brown has travelled to Canada, Washington D.C., New York, Minnesota, Florida, Tennessee, Texas and Alabama. He will be going to Paris, France, later this month with TOPPS to take part in an educational program. He credits his parents for raising him and his grandmother and aunts for their support. He has spoken with Laura Hildred, an advisor in the STEM program at UAPB, who advised him that she will provide an internship for him by this time next year.
“I think I want to get out of Pine Bluff, Arkansas,” Brown said of his plans after he earns a bachelor's degree.
He will also be working at Super 1 Foods store on Camden Road this summer. Devontae Brown's mother graduated from Dollarway High School in 1995 and his aunt Everlenia Iverson graduated from Dollarway High School in 1997. Devontae has a sister Destiny Brown, who is currently a tenth-grader and will graduate in 2019. He has an older brother Samuel Macaway who graduated in 2013.