June 2 was a momentous evening for Claude Murphy. The Langley High School junior arrived at the Great Falls home of his friend Austin Walker dressed to the nines and feeling slightly anxious to be commencing his first prom experience.
“I feel a little scared — nervous,” said Murphy. “I don’t want to go there and look like an idiot.”
But the rising senior was not all nerves — he admitted to being very excited for the ride in the luxurious stretch limo they had ordered for the evening.
“And the dance,” said Murphy. “I like to dance.”
Though Murphy is sheepish when it comes to talk of his impending prom activities, when the discussion turns to his goals for his upcoming leadership role as a member of Langley’s student government, his demeanor becomes instantly serious, as he goes on confidently and enthusiastically about his plans.
“I hope to raise a lot of money,” he said. “I want to have a lot of fund-raisers that we haven’t had in a long time.”
In the fall, Murphy will be not only a senior, but the Student Government Association (SGA) senior class president as well. Murphy was elected to the office by his peers, and it is a position that will place him in the role of leader of the entire Langley student body. An extra bonus and personal achievement for Murphy is that he is the second African American student ever to be elected to that SGA office at Langley.
“It feels good to know that,” said Murphy, who says that he believes the Langley community is generally very tolerant and supportive of its minority members. “Langley is really diverse, but there is definitely a vast difference between the amount of white children there and the amount of ethnic children … it seems like everyone is learning about each other’s cultures all the time.”
A STRANGE COINCIDENCE gave Murphy the opportunity to meet a former Langley senior class president of particular significance to him: 1992 Langley graduate Chris Williams holds the distinction of being the school’s first African American student elected SGA senior class president. As luck would have it, Williams and his mother are close friends of Carol Walker, mother of Langley senior Austin Walker and hostess of last Saturday’s pre-prom party. When Carol Walker heard that Claude Murphy had been elected to the position, she promptly invited Williams to her pre-prom gathering so he could meet his long-awaited successor.
“It’s a small world,” joked Williams, who now resides in Fairfax and works as a computer analyst for a national counter-terrorism operation based in McLean.
Williams said he has fond memories of his years at Langley, and of his experience holding various offices in the school’s Student Government Association. Williams said he was aware that he was the first African American student to be elected SGA senior class president, but he tried not to focus on that aspect of his tenure.
“We had a very close class, and we were pretty colorblind,” he said. “I think those people really believed in me.”
Williams still visits Langley from time to time and at Saturday’s party, he gave Murphy a heads up on the fact that the role of SGA senior class president is one that goes on long after graduation.
“I still organize all of our reunions,” said Williams. “You never stop being class president.”