Patricia Benoit

Telegram staff writer and local historian Patricia Benoit, center, accepts Belton Independent School District’s Big Red Community Partner award Monday from Superintendent Susan Kincannon, left, and school board President Sue Jordan at the Pittenger Fine Arts Center in Belton.

BELTON — When Lake Belton High School opens next fall, students will walk past wall-sized photos depicting Belton and Temple around the turn of the 1900s.

Nearly 100 seventh-graders from Lake Belton Middle School and North Belton Middle School, along with Belton school administrators and Telegram staff writer Patricia Benoit, worked together to decide the school’s interior graphics.

Because of her work, the Belton Independent School District recognized Benoit, a local historian, as its Big Red Community Partner for June.

“This was a little bit more than what I was expecting,” Benoit said of her award. “They were very gracious. I was deeply touched by everything that happened.”

District spokesman Josh Wucher said Benoit was instrumental in the planning of the graphics in Lake Belton High School. Photos from the collection Benoit and her husband, Weldon Cannon, have curated will be used for the graphics.

“The construction of Lake Belton High School, in many respects, not only reflects the future for our district in this community, but also the rich history, important landmarks and geographic features that make this area such a desirable place that we all call home,” Wucher said. “Old photographs and information, provided by Mrs. Benoit, informed the themes and names for classroom areas.”

Lake Belton High School — which is located in Temple near State Highway 317 and FM 2483 — features four classroom areas.

Each has a theme: the Depot area represents the Santa Fe Depot in Temple and railroads; the Prairie area represents the significance of the Blackland Prairie; the Springs represents the area’s water sources and creeks; and the Line area represents the inter-urban railway that connected Belton and Temple in the early 1900s.

“As the building of Lake Belton High School takes shape, it is not just changing the skyline of this community but also the future educational and economic opportunities for the Big Red community,” school board President Sue Jordan said in a statement. “Incorporating important historical references and images from the city of Temple and the city of Belton helps to tell the story of what can be accomplished when our community comes together.”

Originally, Benoit said, the school district had planned to name key areas at the new high school after the now-defunct communities that sit at the bottom of Lake Belton. That proved to be a challenge because not many photos exist of those former communities, the historian said.

“Originally, the idea was that it’s a Belton school so they wanted Belton photos,” Benoit said. “I said, ‘Well, the issue is that these kids are going to live in the Temple city limits, but they’re going to Belton.’ So what happens is they grow up with a sense of both cities. They have a foot in each pond.”

Once the school district gave her the go-ahead to go in a different direction, Benoit came up with 10 themes. That list was narrowed down by the future Lake Belton High School students to the four themes for the classroom areas.

“I was so pleased that they were willing to listen and to think,” Benoit said. “They were a super group of folks to work with.”

Although Benoit played a key role in the planning of this project, she played down her part. Instead, she wanted the focus of these graphics to be on the students.

“The other brilliant thing I think about this whole thing and the way they handled it — and I had nothing to do with this — before the school even opens, the kids have ownership of it. To me, that is so, so valuable,” she said. “I’m just delighted that the whole thing came together like it did.”