Miami Norland alumni say goodbye to old school building

It was like being in high school all over again — only decades later.

The glitter of pompoms and the thunder of the marching band greeted Miami Norland Senior High alumni back to the Miami Gardens school one last time Saturday.

They came decked out in maroon and gray to say goodbye to the original home of the Vikings, a sagging old school building that has stood since 1958. Starting next school year, the next generation of alumni will have a brand new $43 million building to call home.

“It’s sentimental,” said Milton Paris, president of the alumni association. “They grew up in it and they watched the school grow.”

Before the old campus gets knocked down, the alumni association threw a party for Vikings grads from throughout the decades to walk the halls and reminisce.

With all the enthusiasm of a pep rally, they cheered and chanted. Dancers shimmied in the aisles of the muggy auditorium. Young and old stuck their fingers in the air like Viking horns.

“It’s quite a change,” said Donald Bagley, who was a guidance counselor at the school for more than 30 years. “I hate to see it go.”

Caitlin Lapomarede just graduated from Norland last week. A dancer, she wore her white graduation cap, which was covered in pink glitter and images of ballet shoes.

“We love our school,” said Lapomarede, who is headed to Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University to study nursing. “We didn’t want to leave.”

Janine Harvey, class of 1964, wore an elaborate gold pin of a Viking ship on her chest. Her classmate Cathy Alexander came down from Sebring for the celebration.

They remembered their unofficial class slogan unabashedly: “Sin, sex and booze galore! We’re the class of ’64!”

Harvey remembered how boys were required to wear belts — or else rent them for the day from the front office, at a cost of 10 cents. Alexander recalled going to a football game on the day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and her friends making signs in wood-shop class to welcome The Beatles to Miami.

For Marianna Novak, class of 1979, Norland is where she met her husband. It was in the days before much of the school was air conditioned. Even in the muggy Florida summers, only her math class was cooled by AC.

“My parents moved to this neighborhood because of the schools,” she said.

The school’s diverse history was on clear display when alumni from each decade were asked to sit together in the auditorium. The oldest classes, from the 1960s and 1970s, were full of mostly white faces. In the middle, a diverse crowd represented the 1980s and 1990s. In the section for the 2000s, mainly black alumni cheered.

“The community, it just evolved,” said Timothy Reid, class of 2002.

Norland is 94 percent black, 4 percent Hispanic and less than 1 percent white. It earned a “B” on the state’s report card and graduated 86 percent of seniors last year — far above the state and county average. The Miami-Dade teacher of the year and state finalist is from Norland.

Norland also has an impressive sports record. In 2015, it was the first school to win four boys basketball state titles in a row. Jocelyn Ware, co-president of the football booster club, ticked off a list of pro athletes who have passed through Norland.

There’s Duke Johnson of the Cleveland Browns. Antonio Brown of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Darrin Smith, who retired after playing with the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints.

As alumni from the decades crowded the old school, Ware hoped a shiny new building would bring them back soon.

“This is home,” she said. “We need all the supporters to come back.”

Christina Veiga: 305-376-2029, @cveiga