DAVIDSON – During a practice walk in cap and gown, members of the Community School of Davidson (CSD) Class of 2018 received an enthusiastic welcome from much younger Spartans already dreaming of the day when they take a turn as guests of honor in a new school tradition.
In an event celebrating the charter school’s legacy of learning, CSD seniors spent most of May 11 interacting with students in the school’s elementary grades. The seniors presented classroom lessons, spent one-on-one time with students and participated in group activities before donning commencement attire for a parade through the school’s hallways.
To steady applause from students and teachers, a single-file line of CSD seniors walked through the corridors. On the last leg of the journey through the K-7 facility on Griffith Street, seniors walked down hallways lined with smiling and cheering youngsters from kindergarten and first-grade classes. Most of the students raised their hands to indicate their eagerness to join the seniors in the ceremonial march. Individual seniors took those hands and, side by side, CSD’s oldest and youngest students strolled outside, greeted by another wave of cheers from a crowd of parents, students and faculty members.
There, the group sang the school song, danced a little, hugged a lot and posed for pictures. Music played, parents cheered, passing cars joined in with tooting horns, seniors got a preview of their May 30 graduation ceremonies and the younger students got a glimpse of their future.
For members of the Class of ’18 with deep CSD roots, it was a trip down memory lane. For others, it was an experience they said will last a lifetime.
“This was an incredible day for me,” senior Grace DiGioia, a CSD student since kindergarten, said. “It brought a lot of things back to mind. The classrooms, some of the teachers I had, and the looks on the younger kids’ faces. It meant a lot to me to be back, to see who I was 13 years ago.”
Senior Daniel Chabeda, who first enrolled at CSD as a ninth-grader at the high school on Armour Street, said he didn’t know his way around the elementary building, but he has a lasting memory from senior day.
“I walked out with a kindergarten kid,” Chabeda said. “It was really cool seeing all that excitement. That was special, but the entire day was a very rewarding experience.”
Joyce Burke, CSD’s development and media relations director, said the senior day with CSD’s younger students was introduced last year. And this year more than 80 of CSD’s 120 seniors voluntarily participated on a warm spring Friday after senior classes had ended for the year.
“They chose to be here, to take part in this,” Burke said. “I think that, by itself, says a great deal about these students.”
A focus on seniors
Burke invited a few CSD seniors to a post-parade session to talk about their day with the younger students, their CSD experiences and their future plans. Ellie Marcus, Alex Mbuthia and Kirby Bragg joined classmates DiGioia and Chabeda for that discussion.
Marcus, destined for liberal arts studies at Ohio’s Oberlin College, enrolled at CSD in the eighth grade.
“I definitely made the right choice,” she said.
CSD’s emphasis on encouraging students to try extracurricular activities – Marcus was involved in the theater program – is what she considers a CSD main attraction. As for her day with the elementary students, Marcus said “the coolest part was picturing what the kids will be at our age.”
Mbuthia, bound for UNC-Asheville and communications studies, has attended CSD since the fourth grade. She has been involved in performing arts and said the day with the younger kids made her think of her own development as a student.
“Today was really reflective for me,” she said, “to see how I’ve changed, and how the school and the feelings here are still the same.”
She added that CSD “has been a great place for me.”
Bragg, a CSD student since the fifth grade, is headed to the University of Virginia with plans to study biology. He said he was surprised how much he enjoyed the day with the younger students.
“It was really cool,” he said, “but I wonder if, when those kids are seniors, they’ll remember it.”
He added that the approach CSD takes “helps you find what interests you,” and he likes the fact that teachers and students get to know each other well.
Chabeda, set to attend Yale and study chemistry, said the day with the younger students is just one example of how CSD provides new experiences.
“The school encourages you to better yourself,” he said. “The goal is to develop as a person, not get bogged down by the process.”