VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — When Volusia County first integrated its schools in 1970, it had been nearly 16 years since the landmark case Brown v. Board of Education ended school segregation.
For educators like Joretha Hayes and Julia Cherry, nothing could have prepared them for the challenges they would face inside and outside the classroom.
Hayes, who taught Physical Education at Campbell Elementary before integration, recalls how she had to create her own gym equipment and collect bottle caps to help students with counting.
After integration, when she moved to Highlands Elementary, things changed.
“I had every kind of ball, bat, everything I needed right there because I had money in the budget,” she said.
Hayes, who taught for 36 years, still keeps the handwritten notes from her many students.
“I truly had a good 36 years of teaching,” she said.
Julia Cherry, who also taught at Campbell Elementary, remembers not all parents were happy with the changes.
“They didn’t want their kids to be taught by Black folks, but after they found out we knew what we were doing and that the kids liked us, everything was okay after that,” Cherry said.
Cherry credits her students with teaching her the most important lessons.
“They were friends. They wanted to go together to eat lunch,” she said.
She said despite their differences her students had many things in common.
“They have the same feeling, they want to do the same things,” she said.