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