Boys’ High alumni finance reading, writing and math programs


Reilly Blum

BANNERED: In 2001, the Boys’ High Alumni Association raised $50,000 to sponsor the stone arch that marks the entrance to the student parking lot.

Sixty-eight years after Boys’ High dissolved, the school’s remaining alumni are determined to ensure Grady students remember it with pride. Grady, which replaced Boys High as a coeducational school in 1947, has long reaped the benefits of its connection to Boys’ High.

The Boys’ High Alumni Association has funded both the writing center and college scholarships for graduating seniors in the past. This year, the association donated $30,000 to Grady this year in support of reading, writing and math programs.

“We wanted to perpetuate the memory of Boys’ High through the memory of Grady,” said Tommy Tillman, first vice president of the Boys’ High Alumni Association. “Grady exemplifies what Boys’ High is all about.”

After meeting over the summer, Grady’s administration and the Boys’ High Alumni Association determined which programs would benefit from the gift. Of the $30,000 sum, $10,000 will go to the existing writing center, while the remaining money will fund a new math center and reading program. In addition to this charitable donation, the Boys’ High alumni will also provide a yearly $5000 scholarship (totaling to $20,000) for one graduating senior.

“We started with four [scholarships], and we have about eight or nine students currently receiving the scholarship,” Tillman said. “But in our agreement to fund $30,000 per year for those programs, we cut back on the number of scholarships.”

The money designated to the writing center will help its new coordinators, Denine Millner and Nick Chiles, schedule author talks and expand the center’s influence. Millner and Chiles, the parents of 11th grader Mari Chiles, are both New York Times bestselling authors.

“We’re going to use the generous donation that they’ve given us to do some pretty amazing work here,” Millner said. “We’re bringing in authors, doing more writing contests and hosting celebrations of writing. There’s a celebrate writing day in October, and we’re hoping that we could do something to jar the idea of what writing is among students.”

The alumni association has supported the writing center since it opened in 2009. Riki Bolster, former coordinator of the center, founded the program with help from Leon Eplan, president of the association.

“From 2009-2012, the Boys’ High foundation and the Grady High School Foundation funded us, previously five, six, and then $7000 per year,” Bolster said.

Bolster spoke of Eplan’s desire to elevate the quality of professional communication by supporting high schoolers.

“The alumni association believed in what we were doing,” Bolster said. “I know they believe that writing is one of the most important tools you can have.”

Since its founding, the writing center has offered programs including a yearly playwriting workshop, essay writing workshops, student writing contests and author visits. Millner hopes that the Boys’ High donation will allow her to expand the center’s agenda.

“I would love for us to be able to do some peer-to-peer mentorship,” Millner said. “We are working with Georgia State to implement workshops, and then [we will] get Grady students to volunteer and help [their peers] write. We are also looking to partner with the athletic department by providing writing services to athletes.”

Because writing and reading often work in tandem, the Grady administration has the option to allot some of the money intended for reading programs to the writing center.

“There is a degree of flexibility with the three programs we’re funding,” Tillman said. “If the administration feels they need less in one program and more in another, they can shift the money. They are not bound to spend $10,000 per year on each of these programs.”

The new math program, which is slated to open later this school year, will most likely operate similarly to the writing center.

“We’ve got to figure out what that will look like, whether it’s something that operates after school in a particular place … open from 3:30 to 5:30 like the writing center,’’ Principal Timothy Guiney said. “We have to figure out who would coordinate the math center. All these things are in the initial planning stages.”

Guiney indicated, however, that it would require far less work to allocate funds towards the reading and writing programs.

“It’s just a matter of getting approval and facilitating the payments,” Guiney said. “We’re looking for additional support for reading as well, but we haven’t figured out that part yet … We may just allocate additional money to the writing center. I think if we come up with well-thought out ideas that will help students, [the Boys’ High alumni] will be pretty much in agreement—in the past, they have [worked well with us] in that regard.”

A fierce pride in Boys’ High School has motivated its alumni to give back to Grady.

“I was a paratrooper for the 82nd Airborne Division,” Tillman said. “The bond was strong within the airborne division—if you haven’t experienced it, you don’t understand. That’s the kind of bond we have from Boys’ High School.”

Tillman attributes his positive experience at Boys’ High to the school’s dedicated faculty.

“There were so many wonderful professors determined to make students out of us,” Tillman said.

He is confident that the bond between the school’s graduates will never break.

“Our motto is Boys’ High Forever,” Tillman said. “Even after we’re dead, it’s going to be “Boys’ High Forever’.”