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Suffolk school celebrates 100 years of learning

Florence Bowser Elementary School is named after an educator who was instrumental in starting the school in 1920.

SUFFOLK, Va. — Florence Bowser Elementary is celebrating 100 years of educating students in Suffolk. The school is named after an educator and activist in the city. Many describe educator Florence Bowser as a trailblazer in her community.

“I describe her as a pioneer," said Florence Bowser principal Dr. Shalise Taylor. "I think she was someone who had vision. She saw the possibilities. She saw the future and what the community could be.”

About 100 years ago, she started the Florence Graded School, which has now become Florence Bowser Elementary School. Much like its name, the school has gone through some changes over the years.

“It was small," said long-time teacher Holly Pentecost. "There was only two hallways. It was Pre-K through 1.”

Now, the school teaches up to fifth grade in a newer building on Nansemond Parkway. As the building grows, Dr. Taylor said Bowser’s mission and legacy are still rooted within the school's community.

“We actually changed our vision to world changers: preparing every student to make a global impact," she said. "We felt that really embodied who Florence Bowser was.”

Pentecost said Bowser would be happy to see how far it has come.

“We have a wide variety of students and a wide variety and diversity of teachers,” she said.

As school staff look back at the history of the school, they are also looking at the next 100 years to come.

“I see us having a global outreach," Dr. Taylor said. "I see our students engaged in service and I see our students really leading in the areas of technology and project-based learning.”

This weekend, the KLM Scholarship Foundation will hold a celebration and fundraiser celebrating the life of Florence Bowser. It will take place Saturday, September 24 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Suffolk from 5-7 p.m.

Proceeds from the event will go to Florence Bowser Elementary and other organizations.

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