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One of first black Loch Raven students watches son graduate

High SchoolsSchoolsMusicTowson UniversityCommunity College of Baltimore County

When Loch Raven High School held its graduation on June 4 at the new Tiger Arena at Towson University, one person in the audience cheering her son was a pioneer from four decades ago. She was both a member of the school's first graduating class and one of only two African American students when the school opened in 1972.

Sharon E. Miller, of Parkville, Class of 1974, and her son Stanley Jamal White, Class of 2013, are a generational link between old and new high school cultures. The generational divide includes musical tastes, in that she's a fan of Smokey Robinson while he prefers 50 Cent.

Back in the 1970s, blacks were a tiny minority in the school and are now 29 percent of the student body.

The two talk about the changes.

"It's totally different now," White said.

Miller grew up in Glen Arm and went to Carroll Manor Elementary School, then to Ridgely Junior High School. She entered Perry Hall High School as a freshman in 1971 and spent a year there.

When Loch Raven High opened in 1972, school attendance boundaries were adjusted and she found herself as a sophomore in the new school. She and another girl, Debbie (Nolan) Davis, who happened to be her cousin, were the only two African Americans.

"I didn't want to go there. All my friends were in Perry Hall (high school)," she recalled.

But she adjusted. She and her cousin were not made to feel so different, she said, and that eased the transition.

"We started fitting in. I wasn't looked at because of the color of my skin, but for who I was," she said.

Lacking transportation, her social activity was limited. But there were escapades.

"Senior year we'd play hooky. We'd go to a shopping center. When school let out, we'd be back and we got on the bus so my mother wouldn't know," she said.

Her mother, Edna Miller, listening in from around a corner, confirmed the story. "I didn't know anything about it," she said.

Sharon Miller said graduation was a milestone.

"That was one goal I wanted to accomplish. Just hearing your name called out. You made it," she said.

After graduation, Miller worked at jobs at an auto leasing firm and for Baltimore County government. She currently is an office assistant in the county's permits approval and inspections department.

As his high school experience reaches its end, her son has two other passions he wants to pursue, one being his league bowling at Parkville Lanes on weekends. He said he has been to two national bowling tournaments.

He's also a self-taught drummer who plays a kit at his church, Mount Zion AME Church in Long Green. He is starting to assemble his own drum set.

He plans to attend the Community College of Baltimore County-Essex, which has a music program that he hopes can help him improve his skill on the percussion instrument.

Prior to graduation, he predicted he would be "kind of nervous" about the moment he walked across a stage to accept his diploma.

His mother had a different prediction for herself: she would be "puddling up" for the occasion.

"I won't be responsible for my feelings or actions at that moment," she said.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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