By Layla Garms
Wake Forest University has opened its doors for more than 1,200 new Demon Deacons.
The freshmen of the incoming class hail from 22 international countries and 45 states. Among them are 35 high school valedictorians and 63 former student government presidents. Chicago native Myles Harris considers it a distinct privilege to be a member of the Class of 2016 at Wake Forest, his first college choice. Harris heard great things about Wake from a neighbor in his hometown of Chicago who had spent a semester as a guest professor at the school. Harris had all but given up hope of becoming a Demon Deac and had even accepted an offer to attend another school when his WFU acceptance letter arrived May 1. Harris was sitting in a class at the small Christian high school he attended when he received the good news via a text message from his father.
“I got kicked out of class for yelling, but nothing could’ve kept me down that day,” he declared.
Harris, the oldest of three children, launched his college career by learning about his future alma mater’s history and traditions at the school’s Deacon Camp, which was held prior to freshmen Move-In Day on Aug. 23.
The group toured the school’s original campus in Wake Forest, N.C, visited important local landmarks such as BB&T Field and even met President Nathan Hatch, who accepted Harris’ offer to follow him on Twitter.
“It’s just cool to have the president on the social networking sites to follow me back,” he said.
Incoming freshman Mankaprr Conteh hopes to become a journalist or investigator for an international news outlet such as CNN .
“I care a lot about international issues because my family is from Sierra Leone,” explained the Wisconsin native. “…I am always aware of the disparities between my life and the life of a Sierra Leonean child, and that’s what I want my career to help change.”
Conteh, an actress, singer and dancer who has graced many stages in her hometown of Bear, Del., said she hopes to start her own nonprofit organization someday. Her father returned to the West African nation after being laid off from his job as a research chemist two years ago and, because Conteh, an only child, landed a Presidential Scholarship to cover the cost of her education, her mother will soon be able to join her father in Sierra Leone.
A strong proponent of community service, incoming freshman Devin Williams took advantage of the school’s SPARC (Students Promoting Action and Responsibility in the Community) pre-orientation program, a four-day blitz that introduces incoming students to the city through a variety of community service initiatives.
“SPARC was amazing,” said Williams. “It let me kind of feel and touch the different kinds of community service opportunities that are out there.”
On the school’s official Move-In Day, 100 jersey-clad student athletes were deployed to help haul boxes, furniture, televisions and anything else the incoming class needed in preparation for the first day of classes on Aug. 29. The incoming class is 25 percent minority. Of that figure, seven percent are black.
By the time their classmates converged on campus amid a flurry of activity Friday, Williams said she and many of the hundreds of other students who took part in pre-orientation programs were already beginning to settle in.
“It looks like such an overwhelming scene but I just feel so content and relaxed because I already see familiar faces,” the Ashburn, Va. native said.
Williams, the oldest of three children, says she became acquainted with Wake Forest through Dr. Maya Angelou, a famed poet, WFU professor and close family friend. Williams, who dreams of becoming a television writer or producer, said the school’s strong athletic program was an added bonus for her.
“Wake Forest gives you the best of both worlds. You have the small class sizes but the big ACC sports,” she remarked. “…It was really exciting for me to be able to come to the school, and if I ever need a home cooked meal, I can call Auntie Maya.”