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Whitney Houston's NJ hometown mourns

February 13, 2012 2:12:41 PM PST
Whitney Houston was born in Newark and grew up in East Orange, New Jersey, where a school is named after the singer. That school held a tribute to the music legend Monday afternoon.

Flowers and balloons sit outside the Whitney Houston School, and a number of activities were planned for students. The flag outside is flying at half-staff.

The Franklin Elementary School was re-named in Houston's honor back in 1997, at the peak of her fame. Fans returned to the school Sunday to remember her and mourn her tragic passing.

And all these years later, locals are still proud of her.

"How many people people can say, 'I'm the principal of Whitney Houston?' You know what I'm saying?" principal Henry Hamilton said. "It makes me feel good."

Houston was in first grade when she picked up the nickname "Nippy" as she walked the halls, because she was so small. But on Sunday, the school was a gathering point for those in mourning.

"We grew up with Whitney and we have a great sense of pride in East Orange," fan Valerie Shaw said. "And knowing that she was raised here was always a great thing for us."

Whitney attended Mount St. Dominic High School, and even after she became famous, she still visited her hometown.

"She came in through a side door and had all the kids waiting for her," Hamilton said. "Bobby was behind her, and the place went crazy and what have you. I was so proud of her, and you know what? I'm still proud of her."

Hamilton says he last saw Houston several years ago at her father's wake.

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