Senior class officer Raguiatou Diallo takes a photo of Jedaiah Johnson and his mom, Megan Canino, at Aberdeen High School's Declaration Day Friday. Johnson will be going to New Jersey Coast Academy in the fall.
Senior class officer Raguiatou Diallo takes a photo of Jedaiah Johnson and his mom, Megan Canino, at Aberdeen High School's Declaration Day Friday. Johnson will be going to New Jersey Coast Academy in the fall. (Erika Butler/The Aegis)

Lola Charles will be attending New York University in the fall to study global public health and biology.

Jedaiah Johnson will be going to New Jersey Coast Academy to play football before hopefully transferring to Morgan State University for electrical and mechanical engineering.

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Kailah Jenkins will be attending Meridian Community College in Mississippi.

They made their college choices known to all their classmates at Aberdeen High School during its first Declaration Day Friday.

“We do it for sports, but so many kids are going to school for things other than sports,” Principal Mike O’Brien said. “We want people to feel really good about it. They work so hard [kindergarten] through 12th grade.”

Each member of the 291-student senior class who wanted to made a pennant showing their next step after high school. For many it was college, two- or four-year, while others chose the military.

After taking photos with family and/or friends while holding their pennants, students hung them on the big glass windows across from the cafeteria for the entire Aberdeen student body to see. They were next to pennants of where Aberdeen’s teachers went to school.

“We really just wanted to a day to celebrate where the seniors are going next year, and to show academics are important, too,” said Laura Garfinkle, a chemistry teacher at Aberdeen High. “You are doing something when you’re done with high school. We want you to be excited about it, and we want you to share it with your classmates.”

Sydney Mandrino and Melly Ann Maldonado announce their plans for after they graduate from Aberdeen High School during Declaration Day Friday. Mandrino is going into the Marines and Maldonado to the University of Puerto Rico.
Sydney Mandrino and Melly Ann Maldonado announce their plans for after they graduate from Aberdeen High School during Declaration Day Friday. Mandrino is going into the Marines and Maldonado to the University of Puerto Rico. (Erika Butler/The Aegis)

Garfinkle coordinates the AVID program, a school-wide push to bring college awareness to students who participate in the program each year of high school, focusing on different aspects of college preparation each year.

The pennants and photos were leading up to a “seniors only” pep rally Friday afternoon with games pitting students against teachers, as well as a celebration of senior superlatives.

“It’s one of the final times to be together before we go off on different paths, to celebrate ourselves,” said Raguiatou Diallo, a senior class officer who helped organize Declaration Day with her fellow officers, Lola Charles and Arno Lam.

“We worked hard the past four years of high school,” Diallo said. “We are celebrating that it’s not ending with our high school careers. We’re going off in the real world and we all have talents and are going somewhere different.”

Charles said any post-secondary education is important.

“Not everyone takes the same path to get the career they want,” she said. “We’re being very inclusive and not celebrating just one person’s future.”

Megan Canino came into school Friday to get a photo with her son, Jedaiah Johnson, who will be attending the New Jersey Coast Academy in Tom’s River in New Jersey.

“It gives motivation to students, to the juniors coming up,” Canino said. “It gives them a sense of pride, it’s official, it’s really setting in for them.”

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So many people idolize pop culture and NFL players, for students to celebrate their futures “gives them motivation to strive for the best.”

Canino likes that the school focuses on students and academics first, athletics second.

Johnson said New Jersey Coast Academy is a great school, “a great way to start, to go further.”

He’s looking forward to graduation and playing football at the next level, which has “always been a dream.”

NYU-bound Lola Charles hangs up a pennant of one of her fellow seniors who made her post-Aberdeen High School intentions known during the school's first Declaration Day Friday.
NYU-bound Lola Charles hangs up a pennant of one of her fellow seniors who made her post-Aberdeen High School intentions known during the school's first Declaration Day Friday. (Erika Butler/The Aegis)

Melly Ann Maldonado and Sydney Mandrino had their photo taken together. Maldonado is going to University of Puerto Rico and Mandrino into the Marines.

“I chose the military because of the self-discipline and it gets my life together,” Mandrino said. “I was planning to join the military, and if you’re going to join something you might as well join the best.”

Students could also send notes to their favorite teachers or leave message for underclassmen.

Dariele McGowan, who will be going to Harford Community College, was writing to teachers Albert Nistico, Bradley Freda and Philip Hartman.

“I’ve grown really close to them, they’ve made such an impact on my life,” McGowan said.

Kailah Jenkins was writing to O’Brien, the principal, and teacher Susan Burnett, who have been very supportive of her since she moved to Aberdeen High this year. Jenkins will be going to Meridian Community College in Mississippi in the fall.

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