Cheers for York City's ninth-graders

Alyssa Jackson
  • A crowd of community members stood outside William Penn on Monday to cheer on the new class.
  • Afterward, the freshmen were welcomed by a number of local speakers during an assembly.

The William Penn Senior High School  class of 2020 was welcomed into the building with cheers, hugs and applause on Monday morning.

This is the second year the district has held a welcoming event for incoming freshmen. The idea is to support the freshman class and "thank them for making William Penn their high school of choice," according to Principal Brandon Carter. The district encouraged community members to meet outside the front doors and cheer for the students as they entered the school on their first day.

Community members made signs for the class of 2020 and gave them high-fives, hugs and big smiles as the ninth-graders made their way through the crowd. State Rep. Kevin Schreiber, D-York City, made an appearance and spoke to the new students during an assembly in the school cafeteria.

"What better way to start a Monday than to come and welcome the freshmen," he said. "It really personifies the 'It takes a village' quote."

Donna Watkins was another excited community member who welcomed the students. Watkins, also known as The Bug Lady, is retired but spends her time volunteering to try to encourage students to read. She was dressed as a bug with a sign on her back that read, "I'll bug you to read!"

"It's already a scary time, so I provide a little encouragement and humor," she said.

The ninth-graders, though a little overwhelmed, appreciated the encouragement they received from the community and school administrators as they entered William Penn for the first time as students. Fourteen-year-old Terri McMillan said it made her excited for the school year, particularly for sports.

"I'm excited to do stuff, to do all the sports," she said, adding she plans to run on the track team this year.

She wasn't the only student excited for sports. Jaden Taylor, another 14-year-old starting at William Penn this year, said he's excited to play on the basketball team as a shooting guard.

After walking through the crowd, students reconvened in the cafeteria, where they heard from Carter, Schreiber, school board President Margie Orr, Superintendent Eric Holmes and others. Orr reminded students to respect their building and their school district, while Holmes asked students to look around and tell those to the left and right of them that they would see them at graduation.

Later, the class was moved into the auditorium and addressed by Kevin Jackson, a William Penn alumni, who also spoke at the 2016 graduation. Jackson is now vice president of process innovation and technology at Wolf Home Products but remains active in the school district. He said he saw a lot of familiar faces in the crowd at William Penn from when he would visit the K-8 schools and read to the kids.

"I want them to aspire to excellence," Jackson said of the  ninth-grade class. He said he planned to tell the students in his speech, "You will become your focus, your focus will become your reality, and your reality will dictate your success."