Graduating seniors with the class of 2020 may not have had the chance for a physical graduation celebration. For high school students who have studied for 12 years, dreaming of their final weeks of school has turned into a celebration in their backyard or maybe a yard sign declaring, “Congrats, Grad.”
However, around the country, you can find special people who want to create something memorable for the class of 2020.
Here in the Carolinas, look no further than West Charlotte High School.
“As one of many wonderful educators at West Charlotte High School and on their behalf, we wanted to leave a lasting impact on the students,” said Michele Mveng-Magana of the world language department at West Charlotte.
In the middle of the courtyard on the West Charlotte campus sits the West Charlotte High School Rock. In many communities, the rock is called a senior rock or spirit rock that is often painted by the high school senior class. Usually, the rock is painted with class colors, the graduating year or names of the members of the class.
To honor the West Charlotte class of 2020, Mveng-Magana reached out to local artist Jamil Dyair Steele who is also a CMS teacher.
“Thinking about students graduating this year, we could have never foreseen COVID-19 being the pandemic it is,” Steele said. “The traditional things that we take for granted like prom and graduation, they won’t be able to experience the same way we did.”
The spark of creativity was lit, and Mveng-Magana and Steele wanted to design a unique work of art to celebrate the graduating class.
“I’m a West Charlotte High School grad from 2001,” Steele said. “This is a way to give back to a school that has given so much to me.”
A lot of thought went into the design of the rock. One side of the rock was painted with a bold and beautiful image of a lion, which is the school mascot.
Side two is a touching memorial. Sixteen graduation caps that represent the 16 students who should have graduated with the West Charlotte class of 2020 but died over the past four years. The caps include the initials of the names of the students who have died.
“I wanted to do something they would remember about their senior year, and then to pay homage to students who have passed away,” Steele said.
At the center is a restful image of a winged angel cradling a lion cub.
“The students at West Charlotte High School are the inspiration behind the rock,” Mveng-Magana said, “It is a loving memory of the students we lost at West Charlotte High School. Sixteen fallen lions who ascended home before their graduation date.”
Right now, it’s important to understand and acknowledge the unique experience of the graduating class of 2020, and the unique stresses that this pandemic places on the class of 2020 will undoubtedly be profound.
“I just couldn’t imagine losing that many classmates. I wanted to make it something for them to remember,” Steele said.
The rock was sponsored by Desmond Andrade with The Freedmen Law Group, Ronda Carson with Ronda Carson Realty Group, Oscar Magana with DTFireProtectionLLC, Bobby and Jatavia Erwin with Prostyle Salon and Barber and Jamil Dyair Steele.
If you have an inspiring story to share, email Kevin Campbell, WSOC-TV/WAXN-TV/Telemundo Charlotte public affairs manager, at Kevin.Campbell@wsoctv.com.