KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) — Sullivan South High School has produced top-level students and athletes since 1980. But after this year, middle school students will house the building to be called Sullivan Heights.
It is the family atmosphere that the Rebels say they will carry with them as a chapter closes on the school’s final day Thursday, May 20.
“From our parents to our students to our teachers, it’s just been a true community. You couldn’t ask for a more close-knit group of people,” said teacher and coach Sam Haynie, South class of 1995.
“It’s fun to continue the legacy that I started in high school and continue now to the end,” said teacher Laura Roller, class of 1991.
Sullivan South became a melting pot in the 1980s: a merger of all of Sullivan West and part of Sullivan Central high schools.
“My mom was the last graduating class of Sullivan West. It’s awesome to carry on that tradition being the last class of South. All the memories, it’s definitely an honor,” said senior Jada Lane.
Every year since, it has been one community of Rebels.
“Everyone here is proud to be a part of this school. It’s pretty amazing, I don’t think there is anything like South,” said senior Madison Cowan.
For South’s teaching alumni, traditions are cemented in the halls of the school — so is family.
“I pretty much grew up here,” said teacher and coach John Wooten, class of 2006. “My dad taught here and coached here since I was born. I think those early memories as a kid running around here on the ball fields with him as a coach and the sense of fall, it brings those memories back every time.”
“When I first came back, I taught with teachers who were my teachers. Throughout the years, I’m the old teacher and all these young teachers come in,” said Roller.
Lifelong memories will never leave the last class of seniors, especially from Death Valley.
“We do the way down in the valley chant every gameday,” said senior Lance Pollack.
“With the band they have a saying, ‘last time best time.’ I think that still sticks forever,” said Lane.
There is one iconic spot on campus unique to Sullivan South.
“The pit is a huge tradition, the pit is the biggest thing in our building, everybody loves to sit in the pit,” said Roller.
“Every Friday morning in the pit right here we would have a pep rally before school, the band, all the students, everyone going crazy. It really set a good tone for game day,” said Pollack.
In it’s final year, South High School has seen joy and tears.
“It’s very emotional, I know that this school has meant a lot to thousands of people over the years. To be the very last ones is really special,” said Cowan.
Building kids up, whether athlete or student, has been a goal of South all of its existence.
“The word that comes to mind when I think about being a Rebel is character,” said Wooten.
“I tell them all the time, life is hard enough as it is, it’s even harder when you make bad decisions,” said Haynie.
In its final days and beyond, it is more than blue, silver and red that define this school.
“Nothing can get rid of the energy and the love that has been shared here, it will keep on going to West Ridge and future generations,” said Lane.
Sullivan South, Sullivan North and Sullivan Central students will consolidate in the fall of 2021 to the new West Ridge High School.