Nyasia Mercer, Common Ground ’16, shared the words below at the grand opening celebration for Common Ground’s new school building. Nyasia is attending Simmons College in the fall.  

Nyasia Mercer, Common Ground Class of 2016, speaks at the grand opening for Common Ground's new school building.

Nyasia Mercer, Common Ground Class of 2016, speaks at the grand opening for Common Ground’s new school building.

Common Ground has changed immensely since I first came here four years ago. As a freshman, I was wonderstruck by this place: it was like a little secret right on the edge of downtown. Common Ground felt like a place you came to to disconnect from the city, to feel connected to something so much bigger and older than yourself. For many of us, Common Ground was the first place we had ever been that could not be called city-like, the first place we hiked or sat around a campfire, the first place we ever experienced the joy of planting something and watching it grow.

Since freshman year, Common Ground has been busy growing and expanding; giving to others those same first experiences that we all shared. To do this, there has been a lot we had to sacrifice – the berm that felt like our little wall shielding us from the outside and the ever expanding freshman classes – but we have gained so much more in return. At the start of my Common Ground carreer I would talk about CGHS and absolutely no one knew what I was talking about, or I would get the usual phrases like “oh that farm school” or “that place with all the animals”, no one could understand why I wanted to come here, a city girl born and raised going to school on a farm. But now, when I talk about CG, people automatically recognize it. They praise our students for the amazing activist and environmental work we do, and our commitment to becoming POWERful leaders.

The new high school building at Common Ground.

Photo Credit: Kate Cebik

A big part of expanding CG has been this school building. To me, this place is so much more than new classrooms, new tech, and air conditioning – although all definitely great things. To me, this new building means that Common Ground is not a secret any more. All the amazing things we have done, are doing, and plan to do, will be shared with the community. For me, nothing represents this better than that beautiful bridge, like an invitation to New Haven to come and join us in all the wonderful things we are doing, and also helping us come up with truly sustainable solutions to those issues that this community faces. I hope that when I come back to visit CG, it will have become a center for change and innovation, a place not afraid to tackle those issues that others would think too big for a high school to handle. But I know Common Ground, I know these students, I know the staff, I know this community, and I have no doubts that we are up for the challenge.