Local Commentary

A Penny for Your Thoughts: News of Greater Falls Church


 Falls Church High School pulled the short straw to determine order of graduation from George Mason University’s Patriot Center last week, but the ceremony was no less dignified and full of celebration. The June 20 morning graduation was the last in the series of Fairfax County high school commencements this year. Principal Cathy Benner welcomed nearly 300 green and white robed graduates and their families to the cavernous hall with obvious pride, and a gentle reminder about the respect that should be accorded all the successful students.

Dr. Patricia Edwards, director of Student Services, presented 13 Honor Graduates, 19 Advanced Placement students, and nine students who will be going into military service. The Marine Corps apparently did a very good job of recruiting, as five of the graduates will report for Marine basic training. Thien Quoc Vo and Katherine Sejas gave the Honor Graduate Address, characterizing the Class of 2012 as “bold, brave, benevolent people.” Students chose as their graduation speaker Ryan Healy, a 2001 FCHS graduate, now a coach and teacher at his alma mater. The printed program noted that his “classroom overflows with music, laughter, and love.” His graduation speech certainly reflected a lot of laughter, his own and the students’. One admonition to the students was worth repeating: “If you look back too much, you will soon be headed that way.”

Looking back didn’t seem to be on many minds as the seniors enthusiastically received their diplomas from Principal Benner, threw their caps into the air, and filed out into the bright sunshine, confident of their achievements, and ready for their next challenges. Congratulations to all the graduates!

Schools are fairly quiet during the summer, but Belvedere Elementary School families are undertaking a special effort to water and maintain new gardens planted this spring, thanks to a $2500 Dominion Foundation grant. Outdoor classrooms for hands-on math and science learning, and the clean up of “Bulldog Paw Way,” a trail linking the school to parkland nearby, were among the projects supported by the grant. Eight raised beds planted by the children, who harvested crops, enjoyed a “taste test,” and participated in a composting program to recycle leftover food scraps in the cafeteria. At the front of the school, two brightly painted rain barrels were installed to conserve water, and a pollinator garden was created with milkweed and host and nectar perennials. Second graders raised monarch butterflies from caterpillars and released them into the garden. The day I visited, there were no monarchs, but a lot of other butterflies and bees were enjoying the smorgasbord set out for them.

Other funding from a county Schoolyard Stewardship mini-grant transformed the library courtyard into a wildlife habitat garden, an intriguing decomposition garden, and a soon-to-be completed rock identification wall. According to Belvedere librarian Pat Gualtieri, tasked with watering on the weekend, Master Naturalist Stacey Evers and landscape designed Beth Maher freely gave of their time and expertise to help the gardens come to fruition. Belvedere’s goal is to become a nationally certified “Eco School.” Great things are happening in our schools, even in the summertime!


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


  • Penny Gross

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