An Algiers Legacy: Uniting the Past, Present and Future
By Courtney M. Thomas, BAMM Communications
July 22, 2016
Anyone who walked into the backstage area of the Lakefront Arena on May 25 could sense the palpable excitement and exhilaration of the approaching milestone to come. The place was alive with anticipation. Over 300 Landry-Walker seniors would soon cross the stage with their high school diplomas in front of hundreds of cheering family members and friends, a moment many never forget. This year, alongside them stood the L.B. Landry class of 1966, proudly donning their graduation regalia in celebration of the 50th anniversary of their own walk across the stage half a century ago.
For Catherine Peters, a member of L.B. Landry’s class of 1966, this was an especially proud moment. Not only was she celebrating her own 50-year class reunion, her former 10th grade Advanced Placement Literature student, Keshon Latavia Zanders, was the Landry-Walker class of 2016 valedictorian.
“She mentioned studying Hamlet in my class,” Peters proudly stated, recalling Zanders’ valedictory speech. “That made me so happy.”
Peters retired from a 43-year teaching career, spent at both L.B. Landry and O. Perry Walker high schools, respectively. She rounded out her final two years of teaching at the newly unified L.B. Landry-O.P. Walker College and Career Preparatory High School.
Peters recalls the emotions surrounding the 2013 unification.
“Everyone was nervous about the new start, but it was rewarding,” said Peters. “The staff worked hard to maintain the feeling of family and make them (the students) feel at ease and at home.” Peters added, “I grew up in this community. It’s very near and dear to my heart. I had the privilege of working with
students whose parents I taught and whose grandparents I went to school with. Celebrating my 50-year class reunion and seeing both Landry and Walker coming together, performing a graduation, my heart rejoiced.”
Standing alongside Peters was fellow L.B. Landry 1966 alumnus and current Landry-Walker assistant principal, Shan Williams.
“Being with my classmates again was one of the best feelings I had in my life,” said Williams. “I was happy to relive that moment with them.”
Williams has dedicated a collective 35 years of service to L.B. Landry, O. Perry Walker, and Landry-Walker high schools. He credits his commitment to the family atmosphere created at Landry-Walker.
“This is a school that creates a sense of community. When Landry and Walker came together, we didn’t just unify schools. We unified neighborhoods and legacies.”
There’s no better example of legacies coming together than Winston Whitten, L.B. Landry class of ’66 graduate, and his grandson, Byron Whitten, a current 11th grade English teacher at Landry-Walker and a 2011 O. Perry Walker graduate.
When Byron started his high school career at O. Perry Walker, at the time the rival school of his grandfather’s alma mater, he never imagined that one day the two schools would come together and he would have the opportunity to contribute to a lasting legacy.
“When I started at Walker, I never even thought about continuing a legacy.
I had uncles that attended Walker but didn’t ever think the schools would eventually unite the community, and that I would be a part of it,” said Byron.
Although the grandfather and grandson duo attended schools that were formerly rivals, they always kept the competition friendly.
“I have to keep him honest,” Winston affectionately said. “I always brag about how Landry was good at a lot of things.”
Byron looks forward to continuing his work as an educator at Landry-Walker and eventually implementing creative writing and film programs at the school.
“I want to give my students experiences that I had in college, the ones that impacted me. I can relate to these kids. I grew up with their family members,” said Byron.
It’s exactly that motivation and drive that makes Byron’s grandfather proud.
“He’s developed into a nice young man. The things I’ve taught him, he’s trying to teach the kids now,” said Winston. “The education you’re getting now isn’t just for you, it’s for your family because you have to teach them. I’m proud he went into education.”