Grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony a fi­nal mile­stone for Ne­wark Char­ter’s in­au­gu­ral se­nior class

Newark Post - - FRONT PAGE - By JOSH SHANNON jshan­non@ches­pub.com

In the spring of 2013, eighth­graders at Ne­wark Char­ter School were bused a mile down the road to an empty warehouse on McIn­tire Drive, given a tour and asked to en­vi­sion it as their new high school.

School Direc­tor Greg Meece handed the stu­dents Sharpie pens and had them sign their names on the un­fin­ished gym floor so they – lit­er­ally and fig­u­ra­tively – would for­ever be part of the foun­da­tion of Ne­wark Char­ter High School.

Over the next four years, the “pi­o­neers,” as Meece called them, or­ga­nized NCS’ first home­com­ing cel­e­bra­tion, played on its first var­sity sports teams, planned the first prom and cre­ated other tra­di­tions. On Satur­day, clad in caps and gowns, they packed into the Bob Car­pen­ter Cen­ter for one fi­nal first: the school’s in­au­gu­ral high school grad­u­a­tion.

“To­day, we salute 154 trail­blaz­ers,” Meece said. “Delaware has many great high schools that boast tra­di­tions that go back decades and even cen­turies, but you chose to start one from scratch. You breathed life into our school.”

Satur­day’s com­mence­ment marked yet an­other mile­stone for the school, which opened in 2001 as a mid­dle school in trail­ers on Barks­dale Road. In 2003, NCS moved to a per­ma­nent build­ing

on Pa­triot Way off Elk­ton Road and four years later added an el­e­men­tary school. The high school opened with ninth grade in 2013 and added a grade each year.

This year’s grad­u­ates started at the school as third-graders when the el­e­men­tary school opened in 2007.

“You built tra­di­tions, you made a dif­fer­ence, you left your mark,” Meece told the stu­dents Satur­day. “But you’re not just the first class to grad­u­ate, more im­por­tantly you’re a first-class group of peo­ple. Oth­ers will judge them­selves by the stan­dards you set.”

Stu­dent Meredith Grif­fin jok­ingly re­ferred to his class as “guinea pigs.”

“Cre­at­ing the tra­di­tions was fun,” he said. “Ev­ery­body is go­ing to be in our shad­ows.” Me­gan McCormick con­curred. “As the first grad­u­at­ing class, there was noth­ing and no one to look up to. No up­per­class­men, no tra­di­tion, no de­fin­i­tive plans,” she said. “As a new school, we were given the op­por­tu­nity to work along­side the ad­min­is­tra­tion and our teach­ers to cre­ate our ex­pe­ri­ence.”

With nine years at NCS, the se­nior class was able to form strong bonds, sev­eral stu­dents said.

“We’re a fam­ily,” said class pres­i­dent Rumi Khan, who’s headed to Har­vard Univer­sity in the fall. “We have our crazy un­cles and our adorable cousins, but we’re def­i­nitely a fam­ily.”

NCS is the only K-12 pub­lic school in Delaware, and ad­min­is­tra­tors made a point to em­pha­size to the grad­u­ates that though the school has three build­ings, it’s all one big fam­ily.

The day be­fore grad­u­a­tion, the se­niors toured all three schools one fi­nal time. They started in the el­e­men­tary school, where young­sters clad in the school col­ors of red, white and blue waved Amer­i­can flags as the grad­u­ates passed by. They then walked to the in­ter­me­di­ate school, where stu- dents cheered as “Pomp and Cir­cum­stance” played over the loud speaker, and fi­nally took a bus back to the high school, where un­der­class­men greeted them with a pep rally at­mos­phere of cheers and chants.

“Af­ter 37 years in ed­u­ca­tion, I’ve never seen any­thing like this,” Meece re­marked as he watched the fes­tiv­i­ties at the el­e­men­tary school. “Where else do kids this young see role mod­els in the same school grad­u­ate? I guar­an­tee they’ll re­mem­ber this un­til they grad­u­ate and do it for the next gen­er­a­tion.”

Han­nah Cooper said the three­school tour was touch­ing.

“It’s weird to think we were once that lit­tle and have been here since we were that lit­tle,” she said. “It was hum­bling to see the fu­ture of Ne­wark Char­ter School.”

Noah Seador, who is headed to the West Coast to study ar­chi­tec­ture at the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, said grad­u­at­ing felt “like a huge weight off my shoul­ders.”

“I took a leap of faith when I came here to Ne­wark Char­ter School. The school didn’t even ex­ist, so we had to build it up,” he said. “We didn’t know what we were do­ing, but it turned out pretty well.”

Shaily Patel is plan­ning to at­tend North­east­ern Univer­sity next year and said leav­ing NCS is bit­ter­sweet.

“It feels sort of sur­real,” she said. “I’ve spent half my life here.”

Ryan Fredd, one of two stu­dents cho­sen to ad­dress his class­mates Satur­day, tried to put things in per­spec­tive.

“It doesn’t al­ways have to be ‘good­bye,’” he said. “I learned this year that it’s al­ways ‘un­til next time.’”


Ne­wark Char­ter School se­nior Me­gan McCormick ad­dresses her fel­low grad­u­ates on Satur­day morn­ing.


Ne­wark Char­ter kinder­gart­ners cheer as se­niors tour the school one last time the day be­fore grad­u­a­tion.


Ne­wark Char­ter se­niors San­toshi Kan­dula, Han­nah Cooper, Meredith Grif­fin, Noah Seador, Rumi Khan, Quiana Grant, Shaily Patel and Erin Dick­ert talk about their ex­pe­ri­ences at the school one day be­fore grad­u­a­tion.


Ne­wark Char­ter grad­u­ates leave the Bob Car­pen­ter Cen­ter as teach­ers and other staff mem­bers ap­plaud.

Ne­wark Char­ter grad­u­ates ac­cept their diplo­mas Satur­day morn­ing.

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