Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church


 Balloons abounded in the field house of Robinson Secondary School last Thursday, as the J.E.B. Stuart High School Class of 2012 gathered for a final time to receive diplomas and celebrate four years of education and camaraderie. More than 350 young men and women walked across the stage to claim their diplomas from Principal Pamela Jones, who is retiring after 34 years (all of them at Stuart) as an educator.

Each graduating senior carried a shiny 2012 penny, which they dropped in a special “bank” for the retiring principal as they left the stage. Recent penny designs have changed; the 2012 penny has a shield and motto “E Pluribus Unum,” or “Out of Many, One” on the reverse side. In their cheers for fellow students, the Stuart grads certainly reflected that motto.

Social Studies teacher Eric Welch gave the graduation address, and reminded the students that hard work can lead to happiness. That was a message he learned from his mother, who immigrated to this country from her war-torn homeland 70 years ago. In a nod to his favorite philosopher, John Locke, who created the concept of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Mr. Welch said that the Founding Fathers did not include happiness as an inalienable right, but rather the pursuit of happiness. His message seemed to resound with the diverse audience of family members and friends. The Faculty Award was presented to Mariam Ebadi, and the Raider Award, selected by the senior class, went to Leonardo Guedes, both International Baccalaureate (IB) candidates. Nearly 50 graduates are IB candidates, designated by the large medals around their necks.

Falls Church High School graduates this week, but after my press deadline, so I will plan to report about the FCHS ceremonies in next week’s column. Congratulations to all our local high school graduates. We are very proud of you!

Each year, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments teams with the Freddie Mac Foundation to honor foster parents in our region. Earlier this month, the 20th anniversary of Wednesday’s Child was celebrated, along with 10 foster parents from the region, at a gala dinner at the Grand Hyatt Washington. The stories of foster parents and the children they bring into their homes to love and nurture, for a short time or a lifetime, bring tears to the eyes and a special tug at the heart. Wednesday’s Child is sponsored by NBC Channel 4 and, since 1992, the program has featured more than 700 area children, and 425 adoptive connections have been created.

Fairfax County’s Foster Parents of the Year are Randy and Marisa Smith, who have been foster parents to a dozen very young children during the past few years. The Smiths have four biological children, one a teenager still at home, and demonstrate that you don’t have to be a certain age to be a foster parent. Love and support for children who need a home knows no boundaries. Congratulations, and thank you, to Randy and Marisa for opening their home, their hearts, and their family as Foster Parents of the Year.


Penny Gross is the Mason District Supervisor in the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. She may be e-mailed at mason@fairfaxcounty.gov