“High upon old Chapel Hill, stands a school I call my own,” reads the opening verse to the alma mater of Cherry Hill High School West.
Those words — and ones that follow — are now permanently affixed near the school’s main entrance, thanks to a mural by one dedicated and creative Lion.
In front of faculty, staff, students and alumni from the last 50 years, West Principal Dr. Kwame Morton officially dedicated the work Nov. 20. It was crafted by senior Noor Baig and features the opening stanza of the school song in florid script.
“I’m in this committee called the Principal’s Advisory Committee. I work directly with the principals and peers in my grade,” Baig noted. “We are on this task right now of cosmetically enhancing our school and making it beautiful and a place that students want to be. We’re making it better than it already is, which is really hard to do.
“The alma mater is so important to school tradition and we wanted to immortalize that,” she added. “I was graciously given the opportunity. I designed the cherry blossoms to represent those at Chapel Hill, which bloom every spring, and the lyrics I lettered all myself.
“It’s been a long month of work.”
Impetus for the event was provided by Carole Roskoph, English teacher and student activities coordinator, as well as Morton. The pair introduced a new twist on Spirit Week, eschewing the usual parade for the mural unveiling and dedication.
In praising the principles behind the words of the alma mater and the meaning behind the school colors, Morton recognized those who initially formulated West’s culture.
“Cherry Hill West’s forefathers understood that this was the place where ambition was nurtured and pride was born: pride in themselves, pride in their school and pride in their community,” he said.
“Purple represents wisdom, dignity, peace, pride and royalty, while white is associated with possibility, humility, sincerity, goodness and light. The symbolic characteristics of these colors reveal to us the attributes which comprise the ‘West Way.’”
Among the West alumni in attendance at the mural dedication were Dan DiRenzo (‘69), Dawn-Marie Dunphy Higgins (‘73), Kellie Montana (‘82) and Rob Connor (‘91), all of whom posed for pictures around the mural as they represented four different decades.
In the spirit of the moment, Morton announced a shift in protocol. He declared that the alma mater would, from now on, be sung before school events rather than after, citing the song as a unifying force in the school community.
“As an alum, this mural is so meaningful to me. I tell people all the time that this is one of my favorite songs,” said Superintendent Joseph Meloche, who praised the artwork of the mural as “absolutely beautiful.”
“It creates something incredibly meaningful. It reminds me of the incredible people who are tied together because of the experiences they’ve had in these hallways.”
In crafting the mural, Baig said she had visions of students appreciating her endeavor for years to come.
“I think that was one of the most important things for me, not only to immortalize this beautiful tradition, but for me to leave my legacy as a senior,” she added.
“I’m really glad about it.”