ATLANTA — For a team that battled tenacious rivals and clawed its way to a state championship, getting on a bus at 5 a.m. Thursday for a ride to the statehouse was a piece of cake.
Still, the 14 boys of the Laney High School basketball team relished the new experience as they wandered around the Capitol.
They marveled at the painting just outside of the House of Representatives chamber of Lucy Laney, the former slave who became an educator.
“I didn’t know there was a portrait of Mrs. Laney,” said senior point guard Raheem Newton, who was on his first trip to the statehouse.
Jammie West, another senior and a shooting guard, had been once before with a vocational class but was still impressed by the importance of Thursday’s visit.
“This is going to go down in history, so it means a lot,” he said.
Before being recognized by the full House and Senate, the team, coaches and principal Tonia Mason got a personal tour of the Senate by Sen. Hardie Davis, D-Augusta.
“They asked very interesting questions,” coach Jerry Hunter said. “I was impressed with the questions they asked.”
Their queries focused on politics, education and the budget.
Davis explained how taxpayers spend far more keeping one person in prison for a year than on educating one student, which was an eye-opener for some, according to Hunter.
Part of their lesson about community leadership began even before entering the marble, wood and brass workplace of the state’s leaders.
Their success brought the community together to rally around these young men, Mason said.
“That’s what we need,” she said.
And the lesson wasn’t wasted on West.
“It just feels good inside to know you can be truly appreciated and stay humble,” he said. “… It feels good to be noticed.”