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Flint, MI— Eleanor Wicker was rummaging through old belongings when she spotted it: her Flint Northern Vikings yearbook from 1972, the year she graduated. It had been over 25 years since she’d connected with her former classmates. Many have since moved out of Flint or lost touch.
But their 50th reunion was approaching, and she decided it was time to bring them back together. Wicker started a Facebook group, and the hunt began.
She and other alum formed a 50th reunion committee. So far they’ve reconnected with 135 former classmates, but there’s about 300 who’ve yet to be accounted for—and they’re asking for the community’s help to find them.
Because for these Vikings, reuniting is about writing their own story and history.
“Everybody has their own story to tell,” David Panzlau said, who chairs the history committee. “What we want to do is get input from as many people as we can, and then kind of shape our own story.”
Marilyn Reeder, who also serves on the history committee, said she remembers her class as being progressive and integrating with one another regardless of race.
“We didn’t necessarily see just Black and White, but I think we saw each other as a friend, a classmate. So, I think that bonding was highly important for the class of ’72,” Reeder said.
Flint Northern closed in 2013 and reopened as Northern Academy. The Flint School Board voted to close it permanently in 2014. It’s been sitting vacant since.
Though the school closed, its impact on the graduates’ lives survived.
Wicker said a teacher named Juanita Brice, who started Flint Northern’s first pompom squad, instilled in her a sense of maturity and the value of education.
Panzlau said one of his favorite teachers, an English teacher named Glenda Eiler, inspired him to pursue a career in teaching. For 34 years, he taught respiratory therapy at Mott Community College.
Recognizing the teachers as well as the Flint community for their impact is an important aspect of the 50th reunion planning.
“Northern had an impact on our progression from graduation to now. So, we’re all looking at trying to find a way to pay homage to Flint, Northern, instructors, administrators, etc. who had a major impact on our life,” Reeder said.
To do that though, they need to find their classmates. Luckily, the reunion is a year away.
It is scheduled for Aug. 12-14, 2022—the same weekend as Back to the Bricks, Flint’s annual car cruise that draws thousands from out of town. While planning is still underway, committee members said there will be several events over the course of the weekend.
The class of 1972 is integral to Flint’s story, Reeder said.
“I want to let the community know, as a result of shaping us along the way, that you’ve had a major impact on what we’re doing today,” she said.
Flint Northern 1972 graduates can email Wicker at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at (810) 577-3341 for more information or to sign up for the reunion.
The committee asks anyone who knows a former Viking to pass along their Facebook Group page. Those who identify a graduate from 1972 will be entered into a contest for a $50 Amazon gift card.