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High school class hopes tours in cemetery bring history alive

     A Brookhaven High School class plans to bring history alive through a biographical tour in Rose Hill Cemetery.

     Students in a forensics class, a course involving theater, poetic prose, speech and debate, are taking on the roles of prominent figures in Brookhaven’s past.

     The graveyard tour, set to take place Friday from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. and again Saturday from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., will consist of several stops where a student will be playing the role of a given notable character in Brookhaven lore.

     Sophomore Harrison Williams will be portraying city founder Milton Jacob Whitworth.

     “I spent a lot of time researching my character and I learned a lot about him,” Harrison said in class Friday. “Most people don’t know the unique history of Brookhaven; they just think it’s a small town with nothing to do.”

     Carol Clanton teaches the class and sees the tour not only as an educational opportunity for the students but for the community as well.

     “Of course you could research our history at the library,” Clanton said. “But if we put it out there like this, somebody will be affected by it one way or another.”

     Brookhaven Biographies, as it’s appropriately titled, is not a recent concept. Modeled after similar programs in Natchez and Clarksdale, the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce presented a similar experience with the Tour of Homes in the 1990s.

     Clanton explained her students were primarily responsible for sparking its revival.

     “I have kids now that remember going through the tour when they were little,” she said. “They wanted to bring it back.”

     Admission is $3 and will help fund the class’s many competitive endeavors.

     In fact, Brookhaven High has an impressive record in National Forensics League Competitions, achievements made evident by the many trophies proudly displayed in Clanton’s classroom.  

     “The talent has always been here,” Clanton said “It’s one of the many things Brookhaven can be proud of; we are always in the running.”

     Clanton’s enthusiasm resembles the demeanor of a champion football coach.

     “It’s almost like this class is a prep school for places like the Mississippi School of the Arts,” she said.

     Senior Olivia McLaurin is one of Clanton’s six varsity competitors, a title that requires 90 National Forensics League points and a minimum of seven tournament appearances.

     “Forensics has really brought me out of my shell,” she said. “It’s helped the way I speak as well as a lot of other things.”

     According to Clanton, through the competitions and performances, such as Brookhaven Biographies, students are gaining confidence and discovering talents they didn’t know they had.

     “I love to see a kid bloom,” Clanton said. “I know sometimes they wouldn’t be able to do it anywhere else.”