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Gainesville Mill Schools Facebook page unites classmates, debunks stereotype
Social network connects generations of students on Web
Gainesville Mill School alumnus Ron Hooper, pictured here with his father, the late J.C. Hooper, started a Facebook page for the mill community's former students.

While it started as a social network for college students, now it seems like everyone is on Facebook

Middle-schoolers, college kids, parents and even grandparents surf Facebook, which surpassed Google as the most visited site of 2010.

While stereotypes claim older generations cannot utilize technology as well as their younger counterparts, Ron Hooper begs to differ.

"From my experience, the stereotype exists because older generations never grew up with computers," said Hooper, founder of the Gainesville Mill School and People page on Facebook. "But some took the time to learn enough to get to the information they want to retrieve."

The page was created to bring together generations of Gainesville Mill students and residents.

"I made this page because I want to find other students that went to school at Gainesville Mill and give others the opportunity to meet as well," he said. "Other schools in the area had pages, but nothing was ever created for Gainesville Mill School."

Gainesville Mill School burned down in 1973 and never was rebuilt.

"Many of the students that graduated from Gainesville Mill before it burned did not learn how to use a computer, so the page narrowed the student group down to those that have a computer now," Hooper said. "It has brought many people back together that have lost contact or moved away."

Though many past Gainesville Mill students are deceased, the Facebook page also helps family members connect to their lost loved one's past.

"Since many of the people who went to Gainesville Mill lived in the village, there have been generations of families that went through the school," Hooper said. "Posting pictures on the page has lured many folks to look for some of their relatives and friends that may have lived in that area."

The first Gainesville Mill School reunion was last year and plans for the 2011 meet are under way.

"I grew up in the mill village and went to school there for eight years starting in 1958," Hooper said. "I lived close enough to the school, so I walked every day and came home for lunch."

Hooper's time at Gainesville Mill was so special, he can remember the layout of the school and all of his teachers' names. But his favorite memory was playing on the playground.

"During the summer, while school was out, we still played on the ball field as if school was still open," he said. "I took my daughter there to play on the field after she was born in 1976. She was the fourth generation of my Hooper family to play on that ball field."

There is so much history surrounding Gainesville Mill School, Hooper hopes his Facebook page can bring light to its abundant historical record.

The page currently has 158 "likes" and dozens of pictures from as far back as the 30s. Posts from fans range from "remember when" to calls for information on long-lost friends.

The generation gap is hardly noticed among the users sharing stories and updates on their lives.

"Facebook has generated the ‘want to learn' and there are plenty of folks on there that will help out; it is up to the user to decide if they want to learn to use it."

Though Hooper has not made his way to Twitter or Myspace yet, he believes getting online is not only useful, but informative.

"I started using the Internet shortly after it became available to the public," he said. "I have been into genealogy for about 15 years. I started a genealogy page and volunteered for research on several Georgia-based sites."

Genealogy first drew Hooper to the Internet, but Facebook now holds the majority of his interest.

"I would like to encourage users to get on and use Facebook," he said. "Most of the people I have encouraged to get on have become addicted to some part of the program."

Gainesville Mill School and People is not his only Facebook page; Hooper also created a classic car business page.

"There are many very nice people on Facebook. Users have the privilege to report or block anyone for any reason, but I have encountered very little profanity. You will hear more profanity on TV in one evening than I have seen on Facebook in months. Maybe it is the company I keep," he said.

Hooper enjoys using the Internet and hopes to reach others who don't know its value.

"I think the Internet is a great way to find old friends and stay in touch with people when you change jobs, or in my case, retire," he said


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