West Charlotte senior Jazz Lee could barely contain her emotions sitting in the gym of the Charles A. McCullough Sr. Athletic Center Thursday morning.
Lee and her classmates had just walked into the gym to the sound of the band playing and the loud applause of the staff, students and alums.
“Having so much support from the school was amazing,” Lee told QCity Metro. “I was sitting in my seat on the verge of tears from the sheer amount of love and support I felt in the room.”
Lee, who committed to Queens University, was one of over 200 seniors celebrated at Thursday’s pep rally for seniors as they make their final post-high school decisions.
Nearly half plan to attend college, while others have decided to go to the military, entering the workforce or go to trade school.
The rally consisted of words of encouragement from local leaders, Divine Nine Greek strolling and a performance by the West Charlotte High Marching Band.
There were several Historically Black college and university alums in attendance from schools, including North Carolina Central University, North Carolina A&T, South Carolina State University, Livingstone College, Florida A&M and Elizabeth City State University.
Some alumni chapters set up tables for students who attended the event.
Some tables offered souvenirs, applications and college supplies.
Morgan State University offered full tuition to all seniors in the West Charlotte High School Marching Band, the school announced on Facebook.
Every senior received a laptop and college supplies from the school.
Members from Black Greek-letter organizations also introduced their organizations to students and showcased their respective strolls.
West Charlotte TRIO Coordinator Kendra Phifer organized the rally with the help of faculty, alums and community members.
Phifer said she is proud of the seniors, and they deserve a celebration.
“Our students go through a lot. We have students who are unhoused. We have students who struggle with finding meals on a day-to-day,” she said. “They deserve the recognition for making steps towards their future.”
Phifer, who works for Communities in Schools, said the program emphasizes the importance of students having a plan post-graduation.
“If you fail to plan, you plan to fail,” she said.
Thomas Maxwell, a 2002 West Charlotte graduate, said the rally made him reminisce over his time at the school.
Maxwell enjoyed seeing the large showing of fellow alums. West Charlotte, he’s said, is like a family, and students need support from the alums.
“It’s important for them to know that we’ve been through the same things they’ve gone through,” he said. “They need to know that we’ll always be there for help along the way.”
Sheriff Garry McFadden took the podium and encouraged students always to remember where they came from.
“You should be proud,” he said. “You should be honored for the history at this school.”
He also represented his fraternity, Omega Psi Phi, by ”hopping” during the Divine Nine Greek roll call.
Trely’n Brown, another student, said the rally was a fun experience that he needed.
“I felt like I was important,” he said. “Everyone was just cheering me on as I move on to this next step in my life.”
Brown said he always planned to attend an HBCU and committed to South Carolina State University after touring the campus and learning about its art program.
Brown plans to major in studio art with aspirations to enter the fashion industry.
“I would like to design clothes for a big company one day,” he said.
Another student, Asiyah Swain, said she enjoyed watching the strolls during the rally. She said she wasn’t too familiar with Black Greek-letter organizations but has become open to possibly joining one in college.
“I don’t have a big family, so having that sisterhood is exactly what I need,” she said
Swain plans to attend Johnson C. Smith University and major in political science.
She said she believes college will help her grow as a person.
“I always was comfortable at West Charlotte, and I think it’s time I get out of my comfort zone,” she said. “College is definitely the place for that.”
Lee said she looks forward to making new friends at Queens University. She plans to major in psychology with aspirations of becoming a psychiatrist.
Queen said the rally felt like a “stepping stone” for her and her classmates’ future.
“From this point on, our lives will enter into a new era and the class of 2023 can go out into the world and accomplish the things we always dreamed of,” she said.