by Shawn Chitnis

MILL VALLEY (KPIX) — Family, friends, alumni, staff and current students came together at Tamalpais High School on Saturday to celebrate the career of a retired employee who served her community for almost 50 years.

To honor the work of Clara “Jewel” Barrow the school renamed a building on its campus, Barrow Hall.

“Today has been overwhelming. It’s just so hard to wrap my mind around what is going on,” Barrow said after the ceremony.

It was a historic move for a school that dates back more than 110 years.

Barrow is the first woman of color to have her name attached to a building and it’s rare to see a classified employee, someone who is not in a certified position like a teacher, to get this level of recognition.

“I think it’s important to give people their flowers and let them know they’re appreciated while they’re alive,” said J.C. Farr, the current principal at the school.

Barrow retired before Farr arrived but he has heard from many about the legendary role she played in so many lives.

“It sends a message to the students, it sends a message to the staff and the community that, you know, people who do great things will be acknowledged.”

Former school leaders and students joined current staff in sharing stories and highlighting the difference Barrow made for students. Some shared that Barrow herself got kicked out of schools when she was a student. She admitted that fifth grade to ninth grade was a tough time for her and she was difficult to deal with in school.

But the focus of the ceremony was on the work she did at Tam High to make sure others stayed on track to graduate.

“I don’t know if there’s been a person more deserving in the history of this school,” one alumnus of the school said.

Classified employees can include cafeteria workers, administrative assistants and custodians. Barrow first started working at the school in 1968 where, over the years, she was an instructional aide, staff assistant, athletics supervisor and para-educator among other positions.

“She was the first person in our family to graduate from Tam and she said how beautiful the ceremony was. We all wanted to go to Tam, we all wanted to graduate, we all wanted to follow in the footsteps of what Jewel did,” said Martin Evans. He is one of Barrow’s nephews and he traveled from southern California to attend the ceremony. Relatives from across the country were in the audience.

Evans said this honor for his aunt gives him hope about the community he used to call home. He and Principal Farr say it demonstrates a move in the right direction to make Tam High a more equitable and inclusive campus for people of all backgrounds.

“It’s all about the students, it’s all about the students, not me or anybody else, everything was to help the students,” Barrow said.