A family reunionCHHS grads reunite after 20 years
A feeling of nostalgia swept over the Haywood Community College auditorium Friday night when more than a dozen former graduates from Central Haywood High School reunited to celebrate the 20th graduating class.
After the graduates walked the stage, many CHHS students from the 90s could be seen sharing hugs, introducing each other to their families and taking pictures together after so many years.
Angel Moore became a freshman at CHHS when it first opened in 1994 and she fondly remembers all of her helpful teachers and CHHS’s first principal, Richard Reeves.
CHHS played an important role in Moore’s life because she became pregnant at age 14, and the other high schools turned her away.
“It was a good place for me because I had her at 14,” Moore said while motioning to her daughter who is now 20. “They let me bring her with me when I needed to. Other schools told me they didn’t want me there.”
Today, Moore is a personal care assistant and a cook at a retirement center in Waynesville. Before working there, she worked at the Brian Center for 19 years.
Without the support she received from CHHS, Moore said she never would have been motivated.
“I think the difference was the one-on-one time,” Moore said. “And the teachers didn’t blow you off like they do in other schools.”
For Christy Putnam, attending CHHS was a similar experience. She became pregnant with her first child at age 16, and was able to finish high school in 1998 with her head held high because of all the support she received at CHHS.
“They really helped me when the other schools frowned upon it,” Putnam said in reference to being pregnant. “While I was pregnant they let me take my work home and get ahead. When I graduated from Central Haywood, I had one (child) with me and one in my belly.”
Putnam has a total of three children, Makayla Putnam, 16, Seth Putnam, 17 and a 12-year-old named Micheal Stiles. Putnam is currently a homemaker, but previously worked as a certified nursing assistant at Autumn Care in Waynesville and did individual home care.
“I probably would have quit (school) without Central Haywood and I wouldn’t have an education,” Putnam said. “They helped me get my CNA. All the teachers were wonderful — we were all like a family.”
Brad Mease is a 2000 graduate of CHHS who currently lives in Maggie Valley with his wife, two sons and his three dogs. He spends his time doing odd jobs and working at local events such as bike rallies.
Mease said the thing he liked most about CHHS was the smaller class size and the fact that there was no homework — something that was helpful to him since he grew up on a horse ranch in Sylva.
“I had other things to do at night,” Mease said with a laugh.
Mease recalls his experience at CHHS a “push in the right direction,” and believes things would not have been the same for him if he hadn’t attended the school.
“If it weren’t for CHHS, I never would have graduated,” he said. “I probably would have been in trouble, like have gone to jail or prison.”
Nooney Stiles was also a 2000 graduate, and he commuted all the way from New Jersey to attend the 20th graduation ceremony. Stiles is still single and works as a furnace control specialist.
Stiles said he came back to Haywood County to reunite with some classmates, something that made him feel nostalgic as soon as he got there.
“I miss it,” he said about CHHS. “To tell you the truth, I wish I could go back.”
And like his classmates, CHHS made all the difference to his future.
“Things would have been way different if I hadn’t gone to CHHS.”
Adam Hawkins, a graduate of 2000 started at CHHS in 1995 as an eighth-grader. When the school was first created, it accepted students in grades 7-12.
Hawkins, of Canton, is father to a 6-year-old and an 8-year-old. He was an electrician for 13 years until he began working as a farmer selling micro grains and organic vegetables to nearby restaurants, some as prestigious as the Grove Park Inn.
“It makes a big difference when you enjoy what you’re doing,” he said.
Hawkins recalls his relationships with his teachers being the biggest influence on his graduation.
“The difference was having teachers that care,” he said. “Who will be willing to help you on a one-on-one basis. Who see you as a name and not a number.”