Fairfax County’s Classes of 2011 have graduated, to the boisterous cheers of their classmates, and the relief of their parents and teachers. Approximately 11,000 seniors donned cap and gown in their school colors for the annual “Pomp and Circumstance” march across various stages during the month of June.
Seniors at Falls Church and Annandale High Schools graduated from stately old Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. The 317 Falls Church students wore green (for the boys) and white (for the girls) on Friday. The night before, 513 Annandale seniors, the largest graduating class in the school’s 57-year history, were garbed in bright red, with a simple white stripe running down the left side of the traditional gown. Many students also wore honor stoles and cords, signifying excellence in many fields of study. It was quite an impressive sight, enhanced by the huge American flag that was released to soar above the assembly as the National Anthem was played by the student orchestras.
J.E.B. Stuart seniors graduated from Robinson Secondary School on Monday. The change of venue is fairly recent, ensuring a space large enough for graduation under one roof. Although a graduation ceremony on the football field is delightful, threatening skies more than once forced the event into the school gym, disappointing many family members who simply couldn’t get in the door. The Robinson field house has plenty of space; it also is a pretty noisy place, but the noise reflected the excitement of the students and families. Thirty-one of the 294 blue and white-clad students were Honor Graduates, maintaining a 4.0 or better for their entire high school career!
Two commencement speakers were featured at the Stuart graduation: Warren Brown, owner of Cake Love, and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA). Mindful of the students’ attention span, both men spoke only briefly. Mr. Brown, a successful attorney who decided he wasn’t happy practicing law, urged the graduates to search for what they really want to do, and to have fun while doing it. Goals are always changing, he said, so that what you do at 30, or 40, or 50, probably will be different than what you anticipate today. He likes to bake, and found out that people like what he bakes; hence, Cake Love, which now has seven outlets in the region. Senator Warner, too, obtained a law degree but decided he wanted to be a businessman. He related his career: running a new company into the ground in less than two months, failing at a real estate career, living out of his car for a time. Then he discovered a new fledgling cellular technology. Despite naysaying friends and colleagues, he got involved in the new venture, and ended up co-founding Nextel, before he became Governor and Senator of Virginia. He gave the students three quick reminders for life: don’t be afraid of failure; maintain responsibility and respect for yourself and your ideas as well as others; and call your mother!
The senior classes are among the most diverse in the country. The roll call of names by the guidance counselors reflected the ethnic and cultural variety that make Fairfax County an attractive place to live, work, play, learn, and worship – for all. Congratulations to the Class of 2011!
Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org