The following public high school graduation ceremonies were held in Loudoun County last month. Excerpts from speeches were provided by the school system:
Broad Run High School
Commencement: June 20, George Mason University's Patriot Center.
Scholarships and awards: $1.2 million.
Faculty scholarship: William Mines.
Principal Edgar Markley: "This is a special class. . . . I can't remember in all my years a group of nicer students, a better group of kids and certainly a group that I'm really fond of."
Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III: "As I look out at the maroon and gold, I'm transported back 36 years to the time when I was part of the charter faculty of this high school. And I remember in those days all the dreams we had for the future. I can tell you that as near as I can tell, from what I've heard from Dr. Markley, you may be the group that comes as close to perfection as a class as we have ever known."
Valedictorians: Pedro Jaramillo and Oth Tran, 4.35 grade-point averages.
Salutatorian: Ye Ye Shen, 4.32 grade-point average. Shen was named one of two student graduation speakers for a poem she wrote: "We do listen and we do hear. Though we do not like to admit it, we are wiser from it."
Senior address: Phillip Hoegel. "Scholastic recognition, numerous tragedies, alumni achievements and the extracurricular excellence of many students have all left their mark on Broad Run. But, more importantly, Broad Run has left its mark on every one of us. Every one of us in the Patriot Center today will always remember our graduation from Broad Run, symbolizing not our pinnacle of academic endeavors but our embarkation on the first fragment of a journey that will become the rest of our lives. . . . Broad Run has done its best to offer us every opportunity to face life as it truly operates outside the microcosm of high school existence with all possible advantages."
Commencement speaker: Karolyn D. Young, systems director of the advanced programs division in the launch directorate of the Aerospace Corp., who spoke about how arrogance can bring people down a notch.
"It's the story of a Navy lieutenant who was given his first watch on the helm of the USS Enterprise. His first command was the graveyard shift, and as the ship sailed from Norfolk it received a radio call: 'U.S. vessel, you are on a collision course with us; please adjust your course 30 degrees east.' The Navy lieutenant paused and replied: 'I am a lieutenant in the United States Navy, please adjust your course 30 degrees north.' After a long silence, the reply came: 'I am a seaman second class, please reduce your speed 10 knots and bear 10 degrees east.'
"Offended by the arrogance of a junior serviceman, the lieutenant declared: 'We are the USS Enterprise, with a complement of firepower that will reduce you to driftwood. I suggest you stand down from your hostile position and give way.'
"The reply was calm and clear: 'I am the lighthouse.' So if you hear anything from me today that will help you to steer clear of trouble, please accept them as the humble offerings of the lighthouse."
Special recognition: Andy Lawlor, the ninth member of his family to graduate from Broad Run. His family's attendance at Broad Run represents 78 athletic seasons (26 as team captain), 18 most-valuable-player or coaches awards, three class presidents, one vice president, two prom kings and many academic honors. Markley called all nine Lawlor graduates and their parents, Charlene and Jack, to the stage: David (1983), Mike (1985), Jackie (1987), Dylan (1988), Seth (1991), Aaron (1995), Ruth (1998), Christin (2000) and Andy (2005). Jackie attended the graduation despite having given birth less than a week before, and Ruth is a teacher at Broad Run.
C.S. Monroe Technology Center
Commencement: June 15, Heritage High School auditorium.
Scholarships and awards: $21,000.
Principal Wagner Grier: Quoted Oliver Wendell Holmes: "The greatest thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving. . . . To reach the port of our existence, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail and not drift, nor lie at anchor."
Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III: "While you reflect and look back, I would ask that at the same time you look ahead, because what lies before you is a world filled with riches, not just of money but of possibilities and opportunities. You have shown [you can do that] by the fact that you've taken advantage, not only of the regular K-12 educational program, but also of the spectacular program available at Monroe Technology Center. You have demonstrated that you understand the value of education, and you will leave Loudoun County Public Schools as some of our best prepared graduates. [You are] not only ready to go on to higher education, if that is your choice, but ready to truly enter the world as skilled craftsmen and professionals."
Speaker: Leesburg Mayor Kristen C. Umstattd, who requested background information on every student in preparation for her remarks. She spoke directly to a few of the graduates and their parents as she began her speech.
The mayor quoted Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D): "Without graduates like you, the commonwealth would grind to a halt." Umstattd said Warner had made a point of "how important technology and vocational education in the commonwealth is and [that] we haven't done enough to promote it."
Dominion High School
Commencement: June 18, the school's football field.
Faculty scholarships: Brandon Hollingsworth and Natalie Floyd. Money for the $500 scholarships came from teachers who paid for the right to wear casual clothes on what came to be known as "Titan Up Friday."
Principal John Brewer: "Today's celebration marks the final chapter in our community's quest to open a uniquely effective high school built upon the pillars of character, respect, leadership, service and excellence."
Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III: "I think you knew that Dominion High School was going to be a special place when someone named Dr. John Brewer knocked on your front door at an unusual time of day to introduce himself to you and your family. I think you knew that Dominion High School was going to be a special place when the Dream Team met to plan the future of this institution. And I think you've known over the past two years that Dominion High School was going to be a special place as you have established the traditions that will become the history of this school."
Senior speaker and valedictorian Ashley Abesamis: "I could begin by recounting our history: diverse students from two adjacent rival schools merging as one, some by choice, most by boundary changes. I distinctly recall the first days at Dominion High School. I have never seen so many homesick faces . . . lazily roaming the hallways, acting horribly antisocial, dreaming about being elsewhere, anywhere else. In retrospect, we were all being slightly ignorant, failing to give Dominion a true chance on first entering through her doors. Well, we have come a tremendously long way. Yes, our senior class is a bit under-populated and we've had our share of significant obstacles. . . . It wasn't always easy for us, but we made the best of what we had, real troupers."
Commencement speaker: Christopher H. Harvey, first vice president for investments for Smith Barney Citigroup. Harvey was a college student 25 years ago and was studying for a final exam in his home in Sharpsburg, Md., when an intoxicated neighbor began firing a hunting rifle. A bullet pierced a wall and struck Harvey in the head, severing his optic nerves and blinding him. Harvey eventually graduated from college and became the first blind person to receive a master's degree in economics from the University of Virginia. He said he had to learn to forgive his assailant before he could move on. "Forgiveness, my friends, is not so much about the person who has offended us as it is about our own well-being and moving on with our life. The best thing you can do for yourself is forgive someone who has wronged you -- not that you forget -- but you forgive them so they and you can move on with your life."
Heritage High School
Commencement: June 21, the school's football stadium.
Graduates: 218. More than 80 percent plan to enroll in two-year or four-year college programs next year. Six graduates will enlist in the military.
Principal Margaret Huckaby: "Seniors . . . you all have many attributes: intelligence, creativity, the ability to work with others and a desire to learn. These attributes will carry you far in life. Hang onto them, use them wisely and exercise them often."
Deputy Superintendent Ned Waterhouse: "You graduates are aware of the administrators, teachers and many support staff in your school who have all contributed to [your] reaching this day. You may not be aware of the hundreds, even thousands of other people in the school system who have indirectly played a part as well. I am a messenger of their congratulations today and good wishes. They, like me, take great pride in our school system and in each of your achievements."
Valedictorian: Jeremiah A. Lee, 4.32 grade-point average, will attend Brigham Young University: "As we separate and go on our own paths . . . I encourage you to have pride in yourself and your abilities. When [pride is] coupled with hard work and patience, one can accomplish any task. However, with pride also remember humility. Be grateful with what you have. Often the humble would go overlooked, as they do not get much public attention. Even the smallest and most lowly of heart will inspire those around him. Remember patience, diligence, hard work, honesty and charity. Persevere and you will succeed."
Salutatorian: Philip T. Gurney, 4.29 grade point average, will attend the University of Virginia.
Class president: Samuel W. Whiteman: "Three years ago we first walked through the doors of Heritage High. Hailing from Loudoun County, Stone Bridge and elsewhere, it was our task to establish a series of traditions that would allow for future students to experience a sense of belonging and pride for a school we made our own. We've accomplished so much, and yet there is still so much to achieve. Your schooling may or may not be over; either way, your education still continues. We have been given the gift of knowledge, and in return we must bestow the gifts of service and charity. From here on I challenge you to embrace the obstacles that lie ahead and to keep an open heart and open mind as you move forward in life. Be prepared to invent what you do not have and reinvent whatever you take from those who have gone before you. Compromise no ideal and accept nothing secondhand. Be true to yourself, for with this you can accomplish anything you set your mind to."
Speaker: Wendall Fisher, director of the Loudoun County YMCA. "What can I construct or mold to inspire you when you are down and anchor you when the tides are against you? Do not leave your 'wingman.' Your 'wingman' stands for commitment, honor, duty and consistency. Your life will be hollow if you do not seek out your 'wingman.' "
Loudoun County High School
Commencement: June 18, the school's front lawn.
Graduates: 260 seniors, 232 of whom will attend two- or four-year colleges or vocational schools or join the military.
Faculty scholarships for $1,000: Reema Abughezaleh, who will be attending college in Arizona; Sarah Hurley, George Mason University; and Lindsay Samuel, Virginia Commonwealth University.
Principal Bill Oblas: His first commencement ceremony.
Deputy Superintendent Ned Waterhouse: "I hope that as the years unfold you will look back with pride on being an LCHS graduate and being a member of the Loudoun County Public Schools family."
Valedictorian: Benjamin Leonard, 4.41 grade-point average: "While we all have ambition, we must also learn to be happy with what we have and be able to find happiness with our current place in the universe."
Salutatorian: Anna Sophia Gayek, 4.39 grade-point average, will attend the College of William and Mary.
Guest speaker: John E. McLaughlin, a senior fellow in the Merrill Center for Strategic Studies at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University and a former acting director of the CIA: "Remember what John Lennon said, 'Life is what happens while you are making plans.' But if you do your best, if you take as your aim the ideal of serving something larger than yourself -- your community, your nation, your church, something larger than yourself -- you will find it more likely that you will enjoy the ride. Despite the occasional bump, I would not trade my ride for anything."
Faculty speaker: Jimmy Parker, who reminded the students that they had "earned their diploma, but remember it comes with no guarantees and you cannot buy an extended warranty."
Students who maintained an A average all four years while taking advanced-placement classes, participating in athletics and being active in school and community activities: Brian Andrew, who will attend Stanford University; Stefanie Bartholic, Virginia Tech; Anna Sophia Gayek, the College of William and Mary; Paul Iazzetti, University of Virginia; Renee Knepper, Virginia Commonwealth University; Benjamin Leonard, Virginia Tech; Russell Lewis Jr., University of Virginia; Caleb Magruder III, Virginia Tech; Annie Medaglia, University of Virginia; Joshua Richards, University of Virginia; Lucy Robeson, Virginia Tech; Lindsay Samuel, Virginia Commonwealth University; Jennifer Sanow, Washington and Lee University; Michael Santiago, Pennsylvania State University; Daniel Saunders, University of Virginia; Anthony Schneck, New York University; Lamott Smith III, University of Virginia; Scott Spillias, Duke University; Meagan Williams, University of Virginia; and Kelsey Willingham, Ohio State University.
Loudoun County Hall of Fame honors:
Rebecca Adams and Peter Badyoczek: 800 on SAT I math.
Anna Sophia Gayek: National Merit Scholar, 800 on SAT II math.
Matthew Greeson: National Merit Scholar, 800 on SAT I verbal.
Benjamin Leonard: 800 on SAT II math.
Russell Lewis Jr.: 800 on SAT I math, SAT II math.
Caleb Magruder III: 800 on SAT I math.
Jennifer Sanow and Anthony Schneck: 800 on SAT I verbal.
Scott Spillias: 800 on SAT II math and writing.
Most Valuable Senior award: Annie Medaglia.
Loudoun Valley High School
Commencement: June 18, at Leonard Stadium on the high school's campus.
Graduates: 391 (school's largest ever).
Scholarships and awards: $1.8 million.
Principal Gerald Black: Addressed his last graduating class before retiring Friday after 34 years in Loudoun County schools. "You are the last class to have graduated after spending four years at this school. . . . You entered as wide-eyed, little, scared kids. You always listened to upperclassmen . . . when they told you there was a swimming pool on the roof and an elevator up to the first-story floor. . . . We've been here through good times and bad times such as 9/11, an event we'll all never forget. The sniper put everybody on the edge . . . we even had to play a football game in secrecy, so no one knew the location of that game. But as typical as a family, we all overcame these events. . . . I know that we'll hear great things from you all."
Sam Adamo, director of planning and legislative services: Adamo shared a few lines of wisdom from Dr. Seuss: "I want you to have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose."
Adamo also spoke of Nelson Mandela and his road to becoming president of South Africa, and he shared one of Mandela's thoughts on the importance of education: "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world."
Speaker: Thomas P. Wilkens, captain of the 2000 U.S. Olympic swim team in Sydney and a bronze medalist in the Games. Wilkins said he was a "dorky" teenager, skinny with braces, shy around girls, who drove his mother's station wagon to school and around town. Eleven years later, he is a husband, father, homeowner, Stanford graduate, world champion swimmer, Olympic medalist and a former guest of President Bush at the White House. Wilkens shared the four traits and characteristics that he believed enabled him to make the transition.
Spirit: "Spirit and attitude are much more important than physical gifts. What you are most interested in is what you will be best at."
Preparation: "There is no way around hard work. All endeavors take hard work and dedication. You have to be a 24-hour person, do the right thing, 24 hours a day. You can fool teachers, parents, coaches and friends, some of the time, but you can never fool yourself . . . only you know if you are doing everything you can to be the best you can be. Preparation also helps to build confidence."
Persistence: "Often we have to go through difficult times. The process of reaching our goal is what changes us as people, not the end result."
Support: "You will need the support of others to reach your goal and help and support each other."
Valedictorian: Camilla M. Dulys-Nusbaum, 4.32 grade-point average, will attend West Point. "Don't let anyone label you, and learn from bad decisions. . . . Bad stuff happens to good people . . . but as long as the sun comes up in the morning and goes down at night, life goes on."
Salutatorians: Erin W. Ebaugh, 4.20 grade-point average, and Amanda J. Kole, 4.29 grade-point average.
Class president: Aubrey M. Clendenin.
National Merit Scholarship finalist: Zachary Curtis.
Park View High School
Commencement: June 21, at George Mason University's Patriot Center.
Scholarships and awards: $328,520.
Principal Anne Brooks: Brooks was part of the first faculty at Park View in 1976 and served the school for 25 of the 34 years she spent as an educator. She retired Friday. The commencement also was dedicated to retiring Sterling Middle School Principal Ellen Fein (31 years in education, 20 at the middle school) and retiring Park View teacher Kathleen Dugger (37 years in education, 29 at Park View).
Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III: "I remember quite well the opening of Park View High School and the anticipation of that opening in 1976." Hatrick, who was then principal of Loudoun County High School, remembered how Park View's original faculty was assembled. "One of your former principals, Mr. Richard Bonieskie, did an excellent job of raiding the other faculties in Loudoun County to put together the charter faculty for Park View High School. Those of us who lost staff members to Park View knew this new school would be something very special. Among others, I lost your principal, Anne Brooks, who was a basketball coach, English and P.E. teacher at Loudoun County High School."
Speaker: Robert Templin, president of Northern Virginia Community College, who spoke not only as an educator but as the father of 14 children (11 of whom were adopted from other countries). "Yours is going to be the generation of biotechnology and the life sciences. Biology, medicine, pharmaceuticals, health care and genomics are going to be among the most rapidly growing and very rewarding career fields that will be exploding during your lifetime. The emergence of biotechnology and information technology will lead to the extension of your life 10 years more than your parents'."
Valedictorian: Brian Baird: "Our lives are shaped by the sacrifices of others. In our community there are numerous organizations dedicated to helping young people. . . . It is clear that many have invested their time in our futures. Today, we don't have nearly the time necessary to detail all the ways family, friends, teachers, coaches and volunteers and others at our school have impacted our lives over the past four years. But to all of you that have helped us along the way, I would like to thank you on behalf of the Class of 2005. . . . It may seem hard to repay such a debt. What can we possibly do? The Class of 2005 has already begun to answer that question. We've been through a lot together, both good and bad. We've held each other up during the horrific times of 9/11 and the unsettling tension of the sniper attacks. We celebrated together at sporting events, band and choral concerts, spirit week, drama performances, academic competitions, pep rallies and now, today, at graduation. No matter what the school event was, you could count on the Class of 2005 to become involved. A huge percentage of us participated in service projects, but it didn't stop there. Our willingness to volunteer spilled over into the community as a whole. . . . Our class didn't do things out of selfishness or a desire for recognition but out of a genuine desire to help others and make this world a better place. . . . We have a debt to repay, but we have already begun."
Top 10 academic students (in descending order): Diana Gallup and Colleen Kane (tie for ninth); Leslie Doscotch and Kyle Kiser (tie for seventh); Mary Hester, Jared Alexander, Lisa Morreale, Lynne Ellison, Phuong Tran-Le (salutatorian) and Brian Baird (valedictorian).
Five seniors who had grade-point averages of 4.0 or higher who were not in the top 10: Alex Leap, Jamie Sinclair, Brittany Davenport, Erald Kolasi and Lindsay Hurlburt.
Potomac Falls High School
Commencement: June 20, George Mason University 's Patriot Center.
Principal David Spage: "As you leave Potomac Falls , I ask you to remember what, I hope, is a positive time in your life. You've cultivated relationships that will have lasting impact. You've conducted yourself through a series of choices that exemplify a purpose, a positive attitude and personal growth, which adds meaning to who you are."
Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III: "There is nothing of which you are not capable. You have equipped yourself already, and you will continue to equip yourselves to achieve any dream that you may have. Do not ever let someone tell you that you are not capable of something. You are capable of doing anything you set your mind to doing."
Top 10 academic students: Brittany Tomick and Ashley Castor (4.25 grade-point average); Melanie Lause and Claire Grubbs (4.26 grade-point average); Darcy Mason and Ei Thu Lwin (4.30 grade-point average); Sarah O'Neill (4.32 grade-point average); Brett Roberts (4.33 grade-point average, salutatorian); and Emily Senz and Robert Edmond (4.38 grade-point average, co-valedictorian). Senz will attend New York University and Edmonds the Air Force Academy.
Senz read from Dr. Seuss's "Oh, the Places You'll Go!" "I can't write better than words that I read from a book when I was 5 years old," she said.
Edmond, who was the school's first male valedictorian, said academics and athletics have never come easily to him. (He even admitted striking out in T-ball.)
"I've never had natural skills. I've had to work for everything I've done, and not just in sports."
Edmond said his attitude toward his studies was shaped by something his mother said to him in the third grade: "Where we lived, you received two grades for every subject. One for how well you did, achievement, how well you did on tests. The second was for how much effort the teacher thought you put in. Mama always said she didn't care if I was failing the first column as long as I had an A for effort. I'd like to think that attitude is what got me here today to stand before you."
Commencement speaker: Former Redskin Brig Owens. "You live in a time when so many things have happened around you so fast. . . . We have all this technology today, but we seem to be losing one of our most important abilities, and that's the ability to communicate with one another. If we were able to do that, the world would be a lot better off today."
Stone Bridge High School
Commencement: June 17, at George Mason University's Patriot Center.
Principal Jim Person: Person said he owed Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III an apology. Person said he had reservations five years ago when Hatrick told the School Board that Stone Bridge could house eighth-graders in need of a school. Many of those eighth-graders, who spent five years as Bulldogs, sat before Person in the Class of 2005, a class Person said he had no regrets knowing for an extended time.
Hatrick: "To you I make only one request, and that is as you look toward and live out your future, you remember those in your past who provided to you the safe harbors you needed to get to where you are tonight. I hope as you grow in wisdom and in riches and the joys of life, you take the time to share with others the way those around you have shared with you. It is in you that we see the future of our county, our state, our nation and indeed of our world."
SCA President: Shuruq Fillo asked her fellow seniors to consider the wisdom of Mel Brooks. "If you're alive, you've got to flap your arms and legs. You've got to jump around a lot. For life is the very opposite of death, and therefore you must, at the very least, think noisy and colorfully or you're not alive."
Speaker: Sean O'Keefe, former NASA administrator and current chancellor of Louisiana State University. His daughter, Lindsey Se Yeon O'Keefe, was among the graduates.
O'Keefe opened his remarks with the story of a boy who didn't speak for the first five years of his life, despite his parents' efforts. "The silence was finally broken one night at dinner when the lad said, 'I don't like broccoli.' "
" 'Why did you wait so long to speak?' his parents asked. The kid said, 'Well you never served broccoli before. Until now everything was going pretty good.' "
O'Keefe then gave the students a warning.
"You're at the stage in life when you're about to hear a long succession of people older than you are who feel compelled to offer gratuitous advice unsolicited."
Some of the best advice he's heard, O'Keefe said, came from Jon Stewart of "The Daily Show." Stewart said the best thing parents can do is to take their children to high school reunions "and show what can happen to you."
Valedictorian: Nadia Minai recalled the collective pain of being "Munchkins," the bottom rung of the Stone Bridge ladder two years in a row. "After we receive our diplomas today, we will no longer simply be teenagers living within the boundaries our parents set. We will soon be faced with the real world, one in which it takes strong minds and much willpower to succeed. Eighteen years have prepared us for this moment. But because this is the only life we have known, this day and what it represents feels like the end of an era. Rather, and I know it sounds cliche, it really is just the beginning for our generation, for our generation of brilliant minds."
Class president: Thao Ngo: "I'm proud to say whenever odds seemed dismal, we always unified and pulled together as a team. . . . Simply put, thank you for being the classmates that you are and the individuals that you are."