An annual tradition to celebrate the end of the school year is now honoring a Greenwood teacher killed in a southside explosion.
Money raised from this month’s circus at Southwest Elementary School will go into a scholarship fund in honor of teacher Jennifer Longworth, who was killed along with her husband Dion in the Richmond Hill home explosion in 2012.
For nine years, Alicia Martin, a third-grade teacher at Southwest Elementary School, and her students have put on the circus as a celebration for the end of the year and the ending of ISTEP. Proceeds from concession sales at the circus went toward lymphoma research.
Martin worked closely with Longworth. She would instruct students that Longworth had taught the year before. And for a while, they taught the same grade.
Story continues below gallery
When the Longworths were killed, Martin thought the raised could be used for the students who had Longworth as a teacher. That next year, Martin decided to give proceeds to the scholarship fund.
A lot of the students performing had been in Longworth’s class the year she died. And those same students have the potential to get the scholarship when they are in high school, Martin said.
“It’s cool, because the money could go to one of those kids,” Martin said.
The circus on May 21 will feature students doing tightrope acts, comedy routines, gymnastics and animal taming. Admission is free, but concession sales will go toward the scholarship fund in Longworth’s name.
Students work on their routine for the circus for months. Each class day, the 26 students work a bit on their act.
Students get to pick what they want to do. This year, students will do a cheerleading routine, comedy routines, one will race another dressed as a cheetah, and yet another will tell fortunes.
The point is for students and their parents to have fun at the end of the year, Martin said.
“It has also become a big celebration for the end of ISTEP,” she said.
Martin came up with the idea from a friend whom had taught second grade and produced a circus. Years later, her students would tell her how much fun it was and that it was one of their favorite memories.
After one circus, Martin decided to make it a tradition, she said.
“It was such a neat experience, I just kept doing it,” Martin said.
Now, students perform for their parents and in memory of a beloved teacher.
“If Mrs. Longworth were here, she would be proud of all of us,” student Colton Flint said.
What: Circus at Southwest Elementary School
When: 11 a.m. May 21
Cost: Free for the circus. Concession sales will go to the Jennifer Longworth Memorial Scholarship Fund.