Cherry Hill’s year in review: 2019

In 2019, Cherry Hill Township Township weathered some literal and metaphorical storms. From grappling with severe flooding that left neighbors underwater, a policy on unpaid school lunches that brought with it some difficult discussions and a local food pantry spending several months looking for a new home, Cherry Hill faced some challenges at the close of the decade.

But by the same token, residents of the township also rose to new heights in the last year. From winning a national spelling bee to earning the Camden County MLK Freedom Medal, members of the Cherry Hill community were recognized for their hard work and passion for community service. As 2020 approaches, here’s a look back at the events that made headlines in 2019. 

Pair re-elected to posts at Cherry Hill Township Council reorganization

On Jan. 7, David Fleisher and Sara Lipsett were re-elected to Cherry Hill Township Council. Fleisher was re-elected as president while Lipsett was re-elected as vice president. Both were confirmed by a unanimous 6 to 0 vote. 

For the Cherry Hill born-and-raised Fleisher, 2019 marked the 19th year served in township governance. In 1997, at the age of 27, he was the youngest person ever elected to township council. Lipsett has lived in Cherry Hill for more than a decade and also serves as the council liaison to the township planning board. 

In 2019, Fleisher and Lipsett were joined by Councilman Brian Bauerle, along with Councilwomen Sangeeta Doshi, Carolyn Jacobs, Melinda Kane and Carole Roskoph. 

Three new members sworn in at Cherry Hill BOE reorganization

On Jan. 3, at the Board of Education’s annual reorganization meeting, three new members were sworn in, while a new president and vice president were selected.

Laurie Neary, David Rossi and Sally Tong joined the board for three-year terms. The three newbies filled seats vacated by long-time board member Kathy Judge – who departed after more than 10 years of service – Ken Tomlinson, Jr. and J. Barry Dickinson.

Eric Goodwin, who has served as a board member since 2008, gained a promotion to board president following a unanimous vote. Goodwin had previously served as board vice president since January 2017. He took over for Dickinson, who had served as president for the last two years.

Lisa Saidel was elected to the role of vice president in a unanimous 9-0 vote. Saidel was elected to the board in January 2015 and was appointed chair of the Curriculum and Instruction Committee and also appointed to the Strategic Planning Commission last January. 

Cherry Hill residents earn Camden County MLK Freedom Medal

On Jan. 23, 18 Camden County residents were to be honored for their unselfish contributions to improving their community at the 2019 Freedom Medal Ceremony. The award, created by the Freeholder Board in 2001, is presented to civic leaders who demonstrate the ideals and actions that reflect the principles of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Residents Rosy Arroyo, Jen Richman and Rabbi Larry Sernovitz earned the honor in 2019. 

Cherry Hill welcomes Chris Callan as new fire chief

For more than 20 years, Chris Callan has worked in a ton of roles with the Cherry Hill Fire Department. From serving on Ladder 2 A Platoon when he first joined the department in the 1990s to becoming a battalion chief and later assistant fire chief, Callan has a wide range of experience in firefighting.

In 2019, Callan added another position to his lengthy resume. Two weeks after the retirement former chief Thomas Kolbe, Callan was sworn in on Thursday, Jan. 3, as fire chief of the Cherry Hill Fire Department.

“I didn’t start in the fire department thinking I was going to be the fire chief,” Callan said. “I just wanted a job I felt proud of doing. During my career, certain opportunities came up and I was encouraged to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Upon taking over his new position, Callan wanted to immediately introduce himself to the many employees across the fire district. One of his biggest projects in his first month was visiting each of the firehouses across town.

Cherry Hill East boys swimming celebrates 11th straight sectional title

Very few high school athletic programs in any sport have pulled off what Cherry Hill High School East boys swimming did last February. 

The Cougars downed Egg Harbor Township, 110-60, in the South Jersey Public Group A final to win the program’s 11th consecutive sectional title. The streak was by far the longest active run of consecutive sectional titles in the state for boys swimming and confirmed Cherry Hill East’s dominance in the region.

One of the biggest factors for Cherry Hill East’s sectional title run was the depth of the team. That was apparent in the second event against Egg Harbor, as Cherry Hill East’s Alex Volin, Mike Sommeling and Nick Pezzella finished first, second and fourth, respectively, in the 200-yard freestyle to give Cherry Hill East a big lead early.

“That’s what we really boast about this team is that no matter what lane you’re swimming in, you can always help the team,” senior JT Funari said. “Even if you’re not in the A lane, if you’re a freshman in the C lane, you can still put up great times.”

Cherry Hill East ice hockey wins third straight championship

On Feb. 22, Cherry Hill East ice hockey’s varsity team made history when it won the program’s third consecutive South Jersey High School Hockey League Tier-II championship, defeating Holy Lenape Valley, 2-1, in the final game.

However, 2019’s team was nothing like the previous two championship-winning clubs.

Cherry Hill East won the 2019 title with a ton of first-year varsity players. After returning just five players from last year’s team, the Cougars went into the 2018-19 season with a young team and a ton of roster spots open for competition.

“A lot of the new kids had to learn our systems and everything,” senior captain Tom Papa said. 

With the championship, Cherry Hill East became the first Tier-II team to win three straight titles. 

Y-Naughts blazing a trail with Cherry Hill East Robotics

In April, about two years after becoming the first club members to form an all-girls team with Cherry Hill East robotics, Caylin Payne, Caroline Cheung, Kaileigh Scott, Shir Goldfinger, Iris Kim, Vidhya Sundar and Nafessa Jaigirdar were preparing to represent their school on the world’s biggest stage. This all-girls robotics team, named “Y-Naught,” headed to Louisville, Ky., on April 24 to take part in the 2019 VEX Robotics World Championships. The team qualified for worlds after taking first place in the design category at the New Jersey state championships in February. It was the second straight year the team advanced to the world championships.

The world championships was the final competition for the Y-Naughts at Cherry Hill East, but it wasn’t the end of their journey. Prior to joining Cherry Hill East Robotics, the members of Y-Naught planned to pursue college majors in a variety of fields. All seven team members want to pursue some kind of STEM career.

“The end of worlds will be a new beginning for all of us,” Payne said at the time. “It’ll be fun.”

Sustainable South Jersey Earth Festival celebrates 10 years

May 4 marked a major milestone for Sustainable South Jersey.

The organization, which rebranded itself from Sustainable Cherry Hill last year, hosted its 10th annual Earth Festival at Cherry Hill Township’s Croft Farm.

Festival producer Brenda Jorett has been involved with the Earth Festival for most of its existence and has seen the event’s popularity and influence grow since it debuted in 2010.

“Sustainability has become cool,” Jorett said. “People are starting to get it, they’re starting to lift it up and make intentional decisions in their lives.”

Caren Kaufman, vice president for Sustainable South Jersey, believes the Earth Festival has helped educate residents about sustainability over the past decade and will continue to do so into the future.

“It doesn’t end,” Kaufman said. “Just because a community comes up with a sustainability plan doesn’t mean it’s done. It has to evolve. It has to be a living, breathing document.”

Cherry Hill Township Council welcomes new member

A Cherry Hill resident for a quarter-century who possesses a long history of service to the community, Michele Golkow was officially welcomed as the newest member of township council at their April meeting. 

Golkow, flanked by her family, was sworn in by former Cherry Hill Mayor Susan Bass Levin, who served in that post from 1988 to 2002. 

Golkow was one of three choices submitted by the Cherry Hill Democratic Committee to replace Melinda Kane, who resigned her council seat late in April to take an open seat on Camden County’s Board of Freeholders. Greg Bruno and John Diszeghy were the other two nominees. 

With her appointment to the open council post, Golkow’s community leadership continued on a larger stage. She had previously served as immediate past president of Temple Beth Sholom, had been a past president of Jewish Family and Children’s Services of Southern New Jersey and remains a current member of its Advisory Council. 

Cherry Hill East graduate represents country on world stage

In June, Nikita Shukla, a 2013 Cherry Hill High School East alumna and graduate of Tufts University, was selected among hundreds of applicants nationally to represent the United States as a delegate at the upcoming G7 Youth Summit in Paris. What’s more, Shukla was chosen as head delegate of the team of four. 

Her interest in international matters began in earnest at East, where she held the position of secretary general of its Model UN. 

“That started me down the path. I learned about negotiation and understanding the inner workings of how to debate with groups of people who were representing other countries. I learned how to build consensus and then to use that to reach agreement on a particular proposal. I learned how to build alliances,” she said.

Later, while attending Tufts, where she graduated in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in economics and international relations with a concentration in global health, Shukla said she “fell into” public health and women’s empowerment. 

As for the G7 Youth Summit, “Y7” for short, Shukla seemed to be a shoo-in to be a part of the American delegation. She related how the selection committee combed through each of the four delegates’ resumes and chose a head delegate based on varied professional and personal experiences. 

“What actually helped clinch it (her selection as head delegate), was the Model UN experience I had from Cherry Hill East,” Shukla said. 

From June 8-16, delegates from eight entities across three continents gathered in Paris for a week of negotiations, to prepare a call to action with recommendations to the G7 Heads of State and Government. This year’s theme was inequality. 

Cherry Hill residents see school tax decrease

Cherry Hill residents saw a decrease under the district’s 2019-2020 budget. The Cherry Hill Board of Education passed its budget at its May meeting, which included a $4.86 annual tax decrease for the average assessed home of $224,506.

The total budget was $215.9 million with approximately $176.6 million to be raised through taxation. Previously, the average Cherry Hill resident paid $75 annually toward the district’s debt service, but with the district’s most recent bond referendum having failed, the district is operating debt-free and residents are not paying taxes toward debt service under the 2019-2020 budget.

Superintendent Joseph Meloche commended the district on making staff a priority in the budget. He said in the last year, they added five campus police force officers, put counselors in every one of the district’s schools and are adding 15 new staff members under the 2019-2020 budget.

“The commitment that the district has made to the staff in the district is incredible,” Meloche said. “The most important resource that we have is truly the human resource.”

School board welcomes Thomas Paine’s new principal 

The Cherry Hill Board of Education welcomed Melissa Gleason as the new principal of Thomas Paine Elementary School at their May 14 meeting. Effective July 1, Gleason stepped into the role replacing current principal Kirk Rickansrud, who will serve as principal of Joyce Kilmer Elementary School during the 2019-2020 school year.

As of May, Gleason was serving as vice principal at Bell Oaks Upper Elementary School in Bellmawr. Prior to that, Gleason was a teacher at Bell Oaks and in the Monroe Township and Stratford school districts. She holds an undergraduate degree from The College of New Jersey and a master’s degree in education administration from Rowan University.

Gleason said she was particularly excited to continue her journey as an administrator with the Cherry Hill School District.

Pickleball king: Klarman comes out on top at U.S. Open

In three years, Cherry Hill resident Ed Klarman has gone from pickleball newbie to national champion. At one of the biggest pickleball tournaments in the country, the 2019 U.S. Open Pickleball Championships, Klarman brought home two medals. First, he and his partner, Florida resident Sher Collins, won a silver medal in the men’s doubles age 70-plus division on April 29. Then, on May 1, Klarman and Collins won gold in a men’s doubles tournament for ages 70 and up and skill levels 4.5 and up. According to the International Federation of Pickleball, a skill level of 4.5 is the second-highest rating a player can receive and is given to players who have mastered numerous skills.

This was not the first year Klarman competed at the U.S. Open. He made his first trip there in 2018, where he won a silver medal and a bronze medal. In 2019, Klarman moved up to the age 70 and older division as he will turn 70 later this year. With the move, he played with a new doubles partner, Collins, whom he had met while playing in a mixed doubles tournament last year. Klarman felt he and Collins complemented each other well and believed 2018’s U.S. Open experience would give him a leg up in 2019.

“I was elated,” Klarman said of winning his first U.S. Open gold medal. “I was not a big athlete in high school and college. I loved to play all sports all my life, but I was never a great athlete.

“It really is the most prestigious event in pickleball,” Klarman continued. “Even though it’s pickleball, I can say that I’m a national champion.”

East senior earns presidential distinction 

In May, Cherry Hill High School East senior Sophia Liang learned she was a 2019 U.S. Presidential Scholar, a distinction shared by only a handful of other seniors in the country. For Liang, who became a United States citizen only one year ago, the honor has an added significance given that her parents moved to the U.S., in part, to offer their daughter a better education.

Liang is one of 161 students who qualified based on demonstrated academic success through essays, school evaluations, transcripts and evidence of community leadership and service. One woman and one man from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and United States families living abroad were chosen for the honor, which was announced by United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The scholars were honored in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., from June 23 to 25.

Padhy spells her way to victory at national competition 

An aiguillette is an ornamental shoulder cord or braid worn by military aides to the president and by high-ranking officers. It’s also the word that spelled victory for Rosa International Middle School student Shruthrika Padhy at the 2019 Scripps National Spelling Bee.

The competition began on Monday, May 27 with 562 spellers. After nearly three and a half hours of competition, the 20th round of competition ended on Thursday, May 30 with eight spellers becoming the first-ever group to take the title of co-champions.

The bee has an eighth-grade age limit, so 2019 marked Padhy’s last chance at victory. She competed in 2016 and tied for 22nd place. In 2017, she tied for seventh place, and in 2018, she tied for 10th place.

For Padhy, prepping for the bee was a year-round effort. She carefully went through the dictionary and studied the root patterns of words to help attune her ears. She logged somewhere around five hours during the week and 15 hours on the weekends preparing for the competition.

Cherry Hill residents left reeling from floods 

On early Thursday, June 20, rain pelted down on South Jersey, and sections of Cherry Hill saw unprecedented flooding. Some experienced a rush of water in the basement and others were trapped in their cars after getting caught while driving. 

But when the rain subsided and the skies cleared, the end still wasn’t in sight for residents who experienced damage during the storm. Now, the affected residents are moving forward with repairs and filing claims with their insurance companies or FEMA. 

Chief Christopher Callan of the Cherry Hill Fire Department said some of the first calls began streaming in around 7 or 8 p.m. on Wednesday night. Their department was brought in to assist the Pennsauken Fire Department with vehicles that were trapped in floodwaters. 

The calls picked up around 1 to 1:30 a.m. when about five inches of rain fell in a period of four and a half hours. 

“That’s when we got inundated with calls,” Callan said.

In total, the fire department responded to 60 calls that evening. Haddonfield Road from Route 70 to Chapel Avenue and two different sections of Route 38 were under water. The Kingston Estates were severely flooded, and while the residents were in no immediate danger, the department did enter into the neighborhood via boats and offered to transport residents to dry land. 

Callan said they used the boats to check that no one was in harm’s way, and for the residents who were nervous, they offered them a chance to evacuate. Ultimately, they assisted 12 people and two dogs out of the flooded area.  

Board selects two residents to have a seat at the table

The Cherry Hill Board of Education had two new members joining its ranks. The board announced on Wednesday, July 10 that Corrien Elmore-Stratton and Ben Ovadia would fill two vacant seats.

In 2019, the board accepted the resignations of board members Dr. Edward Wang and David Rossi. So, on Tuesday, July 9, the board held candidate interviews prior to its committee of the whole meeting. Around 20 applicants responded to the vacancy notice, and the board narrowed the pool to four candidates who were asked to come in for a forum-style interview. From there, Elmore-Stratton and Ovadia were chosen to fill the vacancies.

Local teacher hopes to affect change outside the classroom 

In the last few years, Larry Abrams’ garage was rapidly getting out of control. His humble desire to collect books for underserved children had snowballed into thousands of books in need of sorting, and the collection was practically spilling out of his Cherry Hill home.

So, over the summer, Abrams’ nonprofit, BookSmiles, moved out of the family garage and into a designated space of its own in Cherry Hill. Abrams held a grand opening on Aug. 29 for which he collected 10,000 books to give away to teachers that day.

More than two years ago, Abrams devised the BookSmiles campaign, which is now a nonprofit. Its mission is to collect and distribute books to children who don’t have books at home. It regularly sets up book fairs in districts where students may not be able to afford Scholastic book fairs. Abrams said if the children ask about paying, they simply say “pay with a smile.” 

His vision was to turn the 1,000 square-foot facility into a space where people can drop off books, volunteer to help sort and where teachers, social service workers and anyone in need can pick up books as needed.

District responds to $18K in unpaid school lunches

At the end of the 2018-2019 school year, Cherry Hill Public Schools had approximately $18,887 in unpaid school lunch fees. While the district has a policy in place to stop serving students after they exceed a $20 threshold in fees, it has not followed the policy to ensure every student is fed. However, with a mounting balance, the Cherry Hill Board of Education first broached how it might change and better implement that policy in August. 

Lynn Shugars, assistant superintendent and business/board secretary, said, at the end of the year, the district had 1,723 delinquent accounts. Of those, 1,380 were under $10 and considered “no big deal,” according to Shugars. The remaining 343 accounts exceeded $10 and amounted to $14,383 in delinquent accounts. Cherry Hill High School West and John A. Carusi Middle School represented the largest number of unpaid balances. 

At $10, students were served an alternative meal, which includes a tunafish sandwich on wheat bread, milk or juice and a choice of fruits and vegetables. At $20, students were supposed to be cut off. Shugars said they opted for tunafish (a choice met with much chagrin in local community group Facebook pages) over peanut butter because they know students would happily continue PB&J’s without informing their parents and because the district has a number of cases of peanut allergies. 

Shugars said it became frustrating for the business office when they were continuously reaching out and getting no response back from parents. 

“If we don’t adhere to our policy, we’re going to be perpetually chasing after this problem,” Shugars said at the time. 

Three-peat: Erlton comes out on top again at Cherry Bowl

With Willowdale coming off an outstanding dual meet season and Old Orchard also finishing with a winning record in the Tri-County Swimming Pool Association’s B Division, the Erlton Gators knew they couldn’t win a third straight Cherry Bowl by relying on past accomplishments. Instead, the Gators showcased their depth and determination, pulling away from Old Orchard and Willowdale in the second half of the meet to finish in first place with 1,003.5 points. Erlton won its third consecutive Cherry Bowl and sixth in the past eight years.

 ‘Ali House’ causes a stir 

In September, Cherry Hill Township Council unanimously approved, on first reading, an ordinance that restricts short-term property rentals in the municipality to terms of 30 days or more.  

The new piece of legislation was crafted in large part due to the volume of complaints by residents on the 1100 block of Winding Drive in the township’s Springdale section. Neighbors on that street have been privy to, over the last several years, issues ranging from noise violations to drug and alcohol abuse on a property known as the “Ali House,” which at one time served as a home to the late boxing champion and humanitarian Muhammad Ali.

However, Cherry Hill Mayor Chuck Cahn pointed out the ordinance was not targeted solely at a single residence, but also due to concerns of other residents across the township.

“We are at a point where we have an obligation to manage the impact that these short-term rentals are having on our neighborhoods, while balancing and respecting the property rights of our residents to rent out their homes. This ordinance is designed to safeguard the peace, safety, and general welfare of our residents and neighborhoods,” he said in a statement issued shortly before the meeting on Sept. 9. 

However, in light of continuous testimony from residents of one township block, as well as other Airbnb operators throughout Cherry Hill, and as a result of additional complaints collected by township governance, the passage of an ordinance geared toward prohibiting short-term rentals was tabled.

Township Council passes budget

Following a second reading and additional public comment, at the end of September, Cherry Hill Township Council unanimously approved the operating budget for fiscal year 2020, including passage of a resolution to add $150,000 for police department pensions.  

With the budget passage, Mayor Chuck Cahn, as well as council, marked the eighth straight year in which municipal taxes were not raised. 

Total revenue under the budget allowed for $74,035,812 toward municipal purposes, with $44,834,797.46 expected to be raised in taxes and $17,323,423.93 in anticipated miscellaneous revenue. 

Also included in the budget was $1,486,629.06 for capital improvements and nearly $15 million for municipal debt service. 

Sudden, heavy storms whip through Cherry Hill

Cherry Hill residents were awakened to the sound and fury of Mother Nature during the overnight hours of Sept. 28-29, when a line of heavy thunderstorms with significant wind gusts called “downbursts” tore through sections of the township and caused sporadic damage.

According to the Cherry Hill Fire Department, it, along with emergency management services, responded to more than 120 incidents related to the storm, including one dwelling fire. The Cherry Hill Police Department responded to more than 100 storm-related calls between 11 p.m. on Sept. 28 and 6 a.m. on Sept. 29. 

The township’s Windsor Park section appeared to have taken the brunt of the storm. Two days after its departure, multiple trees were seen to be uprooted and split from their base, and branches and other debris littered the streets around the homes along many of its lanes, chiefly Washington Avenue and Silver Hill Road.

Board serves up final changes on unpaid meals policy

For nearly three months, the Cherry Hill Board of Education’s unpaid meals policy simmered in the public purview with things coming to a boil at an August board meeting when the district came under fire for language that indicated students whose accounts were in arrears $20 or more should be cut off from receiving lunch. In October, the board served up their final changes to the policy with more forgiving language and opportunities to open the lines of communication between the district and Cherry Hill families.

The revised policy passed unanimously and without any discussion from the board. Under the update, when a student owes $10 on their account, a letter is sent home notifying parents that their account is in arrears. The new policy eliminates the substitute (and much talked about) tunafish meal and allows students to receive the meal of the day regardless of their balance.

At the $25 mark, the building principal or guidance counselor will contact the parents over the phone to discuss the balance, as well as any extenuating factors that may be going on at home. 

At the $75 threshold, parents are required to attend an in-person meeting with the superintendent, business administrator and building principal. If payment in full is not issued within 10 school days of this meeting, the consequences will be dictated by Policy 5513: care of school property. This policy withholds privileges such as participation in extracurricular activities, school trips, prom, purchasing a yearbook and an array of other activities until outstanding debts are paid.

Superintendent Joseph Meloche applauded the board for tackling the revision publicly despite the controversy that came with that choice. He said the state statute on unpaid meals has language that states meals “shall” be withheld, but under the care of school policy, they use the word “may,” to indicate that there’s room for discretion on a case-by-case basis.

“The goal of what we do is responsibility with compassion,” Meloche said.

At the end of August, Meloche penned a letter to Governor Phil Murphy asking him to remove the “shall not be served” clause from the state statute. 

Shin Angulo defeats O’Dowd to become Cherry Hill mayor

After eight years under Chuck Cahn, the Cherry Hill Township Mayor’s office will have a new face from the same party. Democrat Susan Shin Angulo defeated Republican candidate Nancy Feller O’Dowd in November by a margin of 9,908 to 5,745. 

“It is an absolute privilege to serve the residents of Cherry Hill as the township’s next mayor,” Shin Angulo said. “Cherry Hill is in a great position for continued success into the future. I am proud to serve as the first Asian-American mayor of Cherry Hill and the first Korean-American woman mayor in this great state.”

“These past four years, it has been my pleasure serving on the innovative and forward-thinking Camden County Freeholder Board, where I was responsible for the Department of Public Works, overseeing substantial county infrastructure and roadway projects,” the new mayor added. 

Cherry Hill Food Pantry sets sights on a space of their own

In 13 years, the Cherry Hill Food Pantry never had a home to call their own. That changed in 2019 when the pantry closed on a site at 910 Beechwood Avenue in Cherry Hill. 

For Janet Giordano, the pantry’s executive director, purchasing their own space is “a dream come true.” 

“It’s something I never thought would happen,” Giordano said. “This is just the most marvelous thing – to be masters of your own destiny.” 

Back in April, Giordano learned that the pantry’s lease at their Brace Road location was not being renewed. Desperate to keep the nonprofit running, they made an appeal to the Cherry Hill community asking for help finding a place that could offer rent at a price the nonprofit could afford. 

In July, the Rodi family had responded to that plea and offered up a space at a discounted rent on Coles Avenue in Cherry Hill. But in August, Giordano received a letter from Joseph Rodi’s attorney in which she was informed that he no longer wanted to proceed with the transaction. 

With the pantry’s lease due to expire on Nov. 1, the pantry’s board was back on the hunt for a space. They came upon the Beechwood location in October. 

In the interim, many members of the community have stood with the pantry throughout its search. In October, the Cherry Hill School District made the Cherry Hill Food Pantry the beneficiary of its Volley for Support event, donating $13,000 from the fundraiser to the nonprofit. The Cherry Hill Police Benevolent Association 176 also raised $2,500 for the pantry during its annual golf tournament fundraiser.

After months of uncertainty, according to Giordano, there was a palpable sense of relief when she shared the news that they’d found a permanent space for the clients they serve. The pantry had made a promise to its nearly 700 clients that they wouldn’t close down, but many expressed worries about what might happen if they didn’t find a new space. Giordano said there was a round of applause when they shared the good news.

“It was like we had lifted this burden off of them,” Giordano said.

New mural dedicated at Cherry Hill High School West

“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. 

The 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, foregoing the usual parade for the mural unveiling and dedication. 

“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,” Morton said.