Four Decades of Struggle: How Hug High School Is Succeeding

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A local high school has faced racial prejudice, poverty, and academic struggles for nearly four decades...and only now, school district officials say it's truly making strides forward.

For the first time since No Child Left Behind went into effect, Hug High has been removed from the list of Washoe County Schools that needs improvement academically. but it's really been an ongoing struggle for the past 40 years.

The high school opened in 1968 when our country was still very segregated. It was the first school in Reno that integrated African American students with the rest of the population. District officials say since then, it's been tough to shed the racial prejudice surrounding the high school.

Principal Andy Kelly started at Hug three years ago, fully aware of what he was getting into.

"I just remember walking on campus the first day and being really hopeful for the possibilities that existed here. My career path has been to make a difference with kids who are under served, kids of poverty and kids of color," said Kelly.

At that time, student test scores were at the lowest of the low. Hug had failed in every subgroup and category under No Child Left Behind. Now three years later, the school has made a complete's officially off the black list...meaning, it satisfied requirements for adequate yearly progress, a first for Hug.

Kelly added, "It's really just a sign that the work and investment we have put in over the last few years is really paying off for the kids."

Test scores aside, teachers at Hug say the students themselves have changed.

"What I've seen is a change in how the kids see their futures," said Hug math teacher, Tammy White.

Language Arts teacher Keith Roberts says, "For a long time, Hug has had the reputation of being a tough place. I was pleasantly surprised to come to work and see it's not really a tough place at all."

Some blame media coverage of police activity at the school...others say it's the surrounding area that gives it a bad name...all of those factors, leading to a preconceived notion about what the school, and the students, are capable of.

"They're frustrated by that. They feel it's unfair. They tell me in the classroom the school is only in the newspaper if something bad happens," said Roberts.

"That kind of stuff doesn't happen on campus any more than any other school. I feel the campus is sort of a safety zone. I mean, we can't change what's going on in the neighborhoods around us," said White.

Kelly says what can be changed is the school's image...meaning, trying to reverse a 40-year-old stereotype...and he believes it can be done.

"The work's not done at Hug. I really want to see every single child that enters my school graduate four years later...and we're not even close to making that happen yet."

Principal Kelly says he has no plans of leaving the school anytime fact, he just ordered a personalized license plate with the Hug Hawks logo on he's here for the long haul.

Teachers at hug credit much of the school's progress with the forward-thinking attitude of Kelly as a leader. They say while the progress of the past few years is pretty remarkable...there's still a lot of work to do.