Early College High School to hold first graduation tonight

DOVER — For two minutes tonight, two and a half tops, special voices will be heard.

To summon the true spirit of the first Early College High School graduating class in an alma mater ballad, Devin Mercer went right to the source.

“In writing an alma mater, you really want to capture the spirit of the school, while being as colorful as possible,” the Delaware State University-founded school’s choir/chorus director said.

“In my mind, an alma mater should conjure up visual memories, as well as emotional ones. Because of that, I considered the beauty of our campus grounds, as well as our school colors, when writing the song.

“In my research, I found that many alma maters use words that invoke a strong, spiritual connection to one’s institution – words like ‘steadfast,’ ‘stalwart,’ ‘praises,’ ‘hallowed,’ etc.,

“I made sure to include these.

“Finally, I made sure to poll the students themselves, asking them what makes their school so wonderful in their eyes. With this information, I was ready to move forward, and in a matter of days, the lyrics were created.”

The ECHS band and choir will perform the alma mater tonight at the school’s first graduation ceremony for 71 seniors (24 boys, 47 girls) at 7 p.m. in the Education and Humanities Theatre on the DSU campus. There were 125 freshmen when the class entered high school in 2014, with ECHS created to provide opportunity to earn college credits and an early introduction to the university lifestyle.

While many in the class will attend DSU, others are bound for the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford and several colleges in the south, officials said.

“This was a very determined group of kids who fell into place quite nicely once they adjusted to the rigors of the academics and (expectations of being in the program),” ECHS Director Dr. Evelyn Edney said.

The alma mater creation process included ECHS band director Jovan Wilson’s musical arrangement to coincide with the words.

“My goal was to arrange something majestic and vibrant through the use of colors and chords that will give someone chills every time they hear it,” Mr. Wilson said.

Mr. Wilson thought he reached the goal when sending the arrangement to Mr. Mercer to add words.

“I got it back and realized he had taken it to another level,” Mr. Wilson said.

Mr. Mercer described the process as “a challenging task but very fun.”

Also, Mr. Wilson said, “This is kind of a big deal so I hope I’ve helped create something that will evoke the same and love, and feeling, and spirit that I have when I hear my own alma mater.”

Future Ivy Leaguer Christiana Malone, the Class of 2018 salutatorian who is committed to study engineering at Penn, listed some of her best school memories as:

• “Staying after school with my friends to help with the open houses.

• “Renting a study room in the DSU Library with my friends so we could work on our class assignments together.

• “Taking fun and interesting college classes, like philosophy and sociology, that I may not have been able to take or fit into my
schedule in a traditional high school.”

Ms. Malone will speak at tonight’s commencement, along with valedictorian Willow Bowen and student council president Giselle Lewis.

Ultimately, Ms. Malone said, “There have been growing pains, which are common for any new school, but I wouldn’t change anything about the experience and am glad I went to school where I did.”

U.S. Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester, D-Delaware, will present the keynote speech at tonight’s commencement. Also scheduled to attend and speak is U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware.

DSU Acting President Wilma Mishoe will provide remarks along with Provost Tony Allen, as well as from Dr. Marsha Horton, ECHS Board President, and Dr. Edney.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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