Manchester Valley High graduates first-ever class

For Better or Worse

Class of 2011 treads new ground at Manchester Valley High School

  • From left, Josh Stonko, 18, Student Government Association president, Christina Wingate, 18, senior class vice president, and Michael Long, 17, senior class president, are all part of the first-ever graduating class at Manchester Valley High School.
From left, Josh Stonko, 18, Student Government Association… (Photo by Brendan Cavanaugh,…)
May 31, 2011|By Katie V. Jones

On her first day as a junior at the brand new Manchester Valley High School, Christina Wingate didn't exactly embrace the dark blue and silver colors of her new school.

On Manchester Valley's opening day, she wore the red and black colors of North Carroll High School, in Hampstead.

After watching three older brothers graduate as North Carroll Panthers, Wingate had expected to continue that tradition. Her family's home fell, however, inside the boundaries for the new, $80 million high school being built to alleviate overcrowding at North Carroll.

So after two years as a Panther — and a failed attempt to remain one — Wingate entered the new high school determined to be loyal to her former one.

Two school years later, Wingate's perspective has changed. She has not only embraced being a Maverick instead of a Panther, she has actually become a school leader — vice president of the Class of 2011.

On June 1, she will cross the stage at McDaniel College as a member of the first-ever graduating class at Manchester Valley.

In retrospect, Wingate said her loyalty started to change at Manchester's first Homecoming Pep Rally. Strategically placed early in the school year, Manchester Valley's first homecoming in 2010 saw the beginning of school pride take hold — as students, parents and the community at-large took part in a Maverick Stampede, an open house and other events.

"It sped up the process," said Michael Long, president of the class of 2011, of homecoming.

"For a lot of people, it was hard to see what it was going to be like," he said. "There was comfort at North Carroll, and that's a huge deal. For a lot of people it took a long time."

Manchester Valley High School opened its doors to freshmen, sophomores and juniors for the first time for the 2009-10 school year. For the staff and students, the last two school years have been about discovering and defining what it means to be a Maverick.

The task was daunting for student leaders Long; Wingate; and Josh Stonko, student government president.

Under the guidance of Tom Riddle, senior class advisor; and Randy Clark, principal, the group is proud of their accomplishments — and the school they are leaving behind.

"We tried, as the Student Government Association, to keep events throughout the year," Long said. "Every month, we try to have an event planned … to build a strong foundation with people always involved."

Riddle is most proud of the students' generosity. The entire school population raised $17,500 for different local charities over the last two years, he said.

"Our school, when they say something, they do it," Riddle said. "This school has more kids involved and want to be involved."

"We tried to involve everybody here," Stonko agreed. "Some kids struggle in high school and out. We wanted them to come to high school and find a way to find fun and enjoy high school."

While the three admit that not everyone wants to take part in school events, they never stopped trying.

"They (advisors) would tell us you 'did a good job here, now let's build on it,' " Wingate said. "We did a lot better this year."

Opening with a junior class in place was a great plus, as Manchester Valley was able to offer varsity sports to "rally behind and clubs guided by upper classmen," Stonko said.

"They had a huge role as leaders of the school," Clark said of Long, Stonko and Wingate.

"I think because we're new, we try to focus on a foundation of expectation — to do the right thing, to give back to the community and be a part of the community," he said. "Do things with respect to the environment and each other."

As the first graduating class, all 178 seniors have their names, as do the school's first staff, engraved on bricks outside the school.

A time capsule filled with various school memorabilia was being put together for burial before the seniors' last day on May 26. Each senior will also receive a medallion to wear during the graduation ceremonies.

"You can't do justice to how big of an event this is," said Clark of the first graduation. "It is an historic event for this school."

Long, Stonko and Wingate are confident the school body they are leaving behind will continue to thrive.

"There has definitely been an increase in participation in underclassmen," Long said. "There has been no large event for the school that a student voice hasn't been involved."

"It is definitely good for the next group of students to step up and take charge," Stonko said. "They will have different ways to handle things and different activities they want to do."

While it took a little longer for her than Long or Stonko to embrace her new school, Wingate cannot hide her enthusiasm and pride for Manchester Valley.

"I'm a full-fledged Maverick now," Wingate said. "Keep pride in the school."

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