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Havre de Grace valedictorian Chioma Iheacho headed to UMBC as part of prestigious Meyerhoff program

Havre de Grace High School Class of 2020 graduate Chioma Iheacho plans to attend U.M.B.C. to study Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. During her years at Havre de Grace High School she played clarinet in the band as well as playing on the soccer team and running track.
Havre de Grace High School Class of 2020 graduate Chioma Iheacho plans to attend U.M.B.C. to study Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. During her years at Havre de Grace High School she played clarinet in the band as well as playing on the soccer team and running track. (Matt Button / The Aegis)

Chioma Iheacho cruised through the halls at Havre de Grace High School with one real focus; to get good grades. It worked.

Iheacho, who is Nigerian, is the Class of 2020 valedictorian with a 4.491 GPA and she did so with staying busy with a little time for just about everything the school had to offer.

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“I participate in almost everything at the school. I do that and also maintain good grades as well, at the same time,” Iheacho said. “It was a pretty smooth high school experience. There’s sometimes drama between friends and I’d be like, you know, just stop. We’re all here to get an education. I wasn’t one to be in all the drama or anything, I was mainly focused on my education. Trying to get good grades and stuff.”

In addition to focusing on her studies, she played the clarinet in the school band and she was an assistant drum major this past marching season.

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The band holds an senior banquet annually, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, the virtual banquet, put together by band officers, was done over Zoom. Iheacho, the band secretary, and the other officers made a PowerPoint presentation and shared it over Zoom. “It was nice,” she said.

During the event, Iheacho was awarded the Patrick S. Gilmore award, earned due to her contributions to band.

“Chioma is a four-year member of the Warrior Pride Band. She has been a drill instructor and assistant drum major with the Warrior Pride Marching Band. With the band she has performed in Atlantic City for the Miss America Parade, New York City for the Veteran’s Day Parade and in Universal Studios, Orlando,” band director Rick Hauf said. “She sat first chair clarinet this year in Symphonic Band, she has participated in the Harford County Solo and Ensemble Festival and received superior ratings and Chioma has performed in the pit orchestra for our musical production all four years.”

She was also a member of Tri-M, which is the national music honor society.

“Chioma is a very talented musician and a truly outstanding leader. She brings great focus and dedication to all she does. Her dedication and commitment to excellence serve as a strong example to others,” Hauf said. “She has been an integral part of our band program’s success the past four years. Her leadership and talent will be difficult to replace.”

Although Iheacho seemed to have little issues over four years at Havre de Grace, COVID-19 did create some challenge.

“It was harder staying focused, since I was just home surrounded by all my technology. When I’m at home, I usually think of just relaxing, watching Netflix or something,” Iheacho said. “At school, it’s easier to stay focused and stuff, especially when I’m around my friends, because we’re all focused and I have people to ask questions and stuff. It’s much easier when you’re at school.”

The pandemic also knocked Iheacho out of a final season of track and field. Iheacho was a three-year varsity member, participating in triple jump, long jump, 4x100 relay and the 100 dash. Iheacho also played four years of girls soccer at Havre de Grace, three with the varsity squad.

Looking down the road, Iheacho will be making the short drive to college; she is going to University of Maryland, Baltimore County, and studying biochemistry and molecular biology. She will also be in the Meyerhoff Program there and plans to pursue a MD-PhD. The Meyerhoff Program is at the forefront of efforts to increase diversity among future leaders in science, technology, engineering and related fields, according to the UMBC website.

“When I first was looking at colleges, I wanted to go to College Park, but I found the Meyerhoff Program, which is a really good program and I’ve heard people that come out of that program are very successful,” Iheacho said. “So, I applied and once I got in, went through the whole process, I got in, so I just chose that one.”

Hauf added that the Meyerhoff program is “very competitive” and “comes with an outstanding scholarship package.”

“I am super proud of her and I am lucky to have worked with her the past four years,” Hauf said.

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Despite the bright future, there was still the issue for Iheacho and her senior class with the closure of schools, the questions and restrictions about graduations.

Iheacho said she was saddened by not getting to graduate alongside her friends.

“Especially in Havre de Grace, you grow up with and around the same people pretty much,” she said. "So, not getting to graduate with them, especially since we were gonna be the last class to graduate from our school.”

A senior class valedictorian always has a few words for the fellow classmates. Iheacho’s parting words were, “the trials we face only make us more competent."

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