NIA MCELHANEY, ARTS
Church: Word of Faith
Favorite Bible Verse: “The end of a matter is better than its beginning, and patience is better than pride.” (Ecclesiastes 7:8)
Scholarship Offerings To Date: $129,000 (excluding HOPE and Zell) - Hampton University Merit Scholarship, North Carolina A&T Merit Scholarship, and Howard University
College Acceptances: Howard University, Spelman College, Hampton University, North Carolina A&T State University, Georgia State University, University of North Carolina Charlotte
Activities and Service: Dozier School of the Arts, Student Government Association, Tri-M (chaplain, junior year; vice president, senior year), Winter Guard, Jazz Band, Marching Band (woodwind section leader, sophomore and junior years; drum major, senior year), Technical Theatre
“Through band, I've been able to spend time with lower and middle schoolers, engaging with them in a mentorship type of way. I'm glad that they can see me as both a mentor and friend, as Jesus is the biggest mentor and friend that anyone could ask for. Truthfully, they teach me much more than I could ever teach them.”
Be bold! That’s the advice that class of 2022 graduate Nia McElhaney offers to all new students entering MPCS. It’s the very same advice that this self-described soft-spoken senior has followed herself, leading to her dream role as drum major of the MPCS Soaring Eagle Marching Band, alongside classmates Bailey Hawkins and Payton Dromey. “Band has been a vital part of my time at MPCS, and I can truthfully say that I have dedicated loads of time and energy to it,” Nia shares. “When I joined marching band my freshman year, I had every intention of being drum major my senior year. I remember practicing my marching basics in my room, doing breathing exercises so I could finally play as loudly as Band Director Mr. Billy Flood wanted me to and mimicking the drum major's conducting technique.” By her sophomore year, Nia earned the woodwind section leader position, culminating in the drum major role her senior year.
Indeed, Nia shares that many of her favorite high school memories revolve around band, including a memorable away football game during her sophomore year performing in wind and pouring rain. She spends her free blocks in the band room, helping Mr. Flood with the fifth- and sixth-grade bands. “Those kids mean a lot to me,” she reminisces. “I feel blessed they've allowed themselves to not only see me as a mentor, but also as a friend. I'm glad that I have a place in their day to offer encouragement and mentorship.” Nia says she’ll miss most the younger students at MPCS upon graduation: “There's a sense of inspiration that comes from seeing children grow up in the same environment that I did; it makes me want to do what I can to make their experience growing up even better than mine.”
Part of Nia’s advice to new students includes introducing yourself to at least one new person and overcoming the fear of asking questions or making small talk. Being involved and engaged, such as by joining extracurriculars, is also a powerful way of establishing community and is a sure way of getting acclimated to a new environment. Through her involvement in the Student Government Association and Tri-M, Nia has joined in fellowship with others and is able to consider different perspectives. “Upon first meeting me, I'm not the most outgoing person. SGA allowed me to serve the student body by hearing their voices and voicing their concerns. Tri-M and jazz band have enabled me to serve elders in senior living facilities through a voice of song, which brings people together everywhere,” Nia says.
When she’s not serving on campus, performing with the band, or studying for classes, Nia may be found working at a local restaurant after school. Juggling her many responsibilities has taught Nia the discipline to commit to her studies, even with the pull of other activities. “I had to have the discipline to know that my school work comes before anything that isn't mandatory,” she says. “Because of that discipline, I've been able to achieve a great GPA.”
Her mother, Dr. Shameka Hunt McElhaney, credits small class sizes at MPCS for allowing a genuine connection between students and teachers: “Having Nia under the wings of Mr. Flood and Mr. Cary Brague, MPCS director of arts, has not only bettered her as a musician, but their wisdom and intellect has enhanced her growth into young adulthood." Nia echoes that sentiment: “I first started band in fifth grade and have been in it every year since then. Not only is Mr. Flood an amazing band director, but he has such enviable character and always seems to have the right words when you need them the most. Getting to learn from him and grow alongside him is the biggest blessing I could have ever received from attending the school.”
With Georgia State University on the horizon, Nia plans to continue her marching band experience. She also aspires to pursue a career in film, with the goal to write, direct, and produce her own film. Of her decision, Nia says she only recently came to terms with the idea of a degree in film: “I always thought that it was too outlandish or too much of a stretch. I thought I needed to follow a career path that was a bit more practical, so I thought about going into law and even medicine, like my mom. After sitting down and evaluating what would be the most ideal way to live my life, I accepted that entertainment is where I want to be. My goals are not guaranteed, but I will do what I can to get there.” Be bold. With trust and faith in God, coupled with a relentless pursuit of excellence, dreams do come true.
Nia McElhaney Accomplishments:
Servant Leadership Award, Marching Band
Drum Major, Marching Band
Excellent Performance Award, Concert Band (grades 9 and 11)
First student conductor of fifth-grade band concert