The Lasso in the News-Press: Principal Byrd’s Award & the Application Process


The Falls Church News-Press has partnered with George Mason High School’s award-winning newspaper, The Lasso, to bring its readers some of the top articles appearing in the student-run digital paper. This regular feature will appear monthly in the News-Press during the school year. The Lasso can be found online at

Well-Deserved Award for George Mason High School Principal Byrd

(Photo: Lasso)
(Photo: Lasso)

By Melissa Johnson

“Excel in mind, body, and character.” As a student of George Mason, those words are spoken by our Principal Tyrone Byrd on a daily basis. Those words especially ring in my mind when the days get long and challenging. It is easy to just speak those inspiring words, and not act on them; however Principal Byrd not only speaks such words, he represents those words as a leader of George Mason High School.

Byrd has been my principal for all four years that I have been a student at GMHS, and I was incredibly excited to find out that Principal Byrd was one of the winners of the Washington Post’s 2015 Distinguished Educational Leadership Award.

According to the Washington Post, great educational leaders who receive this award are “those that go beyond the day-to-day demands of their position and create an exceptional educational environment.”

If I could capture who Principal Byrd is as a leader, those words would be the perfect fit.

From the minute I drive up to GM in the morning, Mr. Byrd is always standing outside of the building, smiling with his 100-watt smile, and offering words of encouragement for the day and a firm handshake. Mornings are not typically a student’s favorite part of the day, but Mr. Byrd’s heartwarming action to take time to greet students goes a long way in making the morning hour much easier.

My interaction with Mr. Byrd doesn’t stop there. Once I get into my normal routine, and I am finally awake it isn’t uncommon for me to walk down the hallways and see him interacting with other staff and students. Instead of holing up in his office, Mr. Byrd makes the effort to put paperwork aside, and interact with students.

Mr. Byrd tries to get to know all his students and teachers on a personal level, beyond the academics, in sports, daily activities, and even to empathizing to the chronic exhaustion of the week. To know my principal cares so much about all aspects of my life, it goes a long way.

When my day has ended, and I am getting ready to warm up for a 7 p.m. home soccer game, Principal Byrd takes his perch upon the hill, and becomes our biggest cheerleader. It is understandable for Mr. Byrd to want to go home, and rest up for another busy day of acting out his inspiring message, yet there he is, once again, exceeding expectations and supporting his students outside their academic lives — with enthusiasm and earnestness.

It is even more satisfying to know that I am just one of many students who experience Principal Byrd’s active engagement with students. Byrd’s interaction with as many students as possible is comes across as nearly effortless. Any extracurricular activity from sports, to Scholastic Bowl, to a theater production, or a robotics competition, Byrd is bound to be present cheering, supporting, and tweeting about his Mustangs.

Excellence in mind, body and character are three qualities that I attempt to strive for every single day. To know my principal is there helping me accomplish that is pretty powerful. I find myself again and again thankful for the principal I get to interact with every day, and so proud to see Principal Byrd win such an honorable award.



The Walking Dead? More Like Seniors After the Application Process

By Emma Graig

As a second semester senior, I guess I’m done with the application process: the mind-numbing, crippling anxiety-inducing, possibly-detrimental-to-my-health college application process. I feel for those of you in the heart of it or just starting it, and I am here to tell you that you cannot submit to the process. Don’t replace who you think you’re supposed to be with who you are.

I feel that this is a nice time to sit back and reflect on the tortuous process that all seniors have endured. First of all, it wasn’t like this process just began this year, it started the moment we set foot in high school (or even before for some of us taking high school credit courses in middle school).

We were constantly reminded that our grades in these courses, starting freshman year, would stay with us on our transcript for the rest of our high school careers. Yeah, I distinctly remember a discussion with my friends after our first exposure to the scattergrams on the evil “Naviance” (don’t look at the scattergrams…just don’t) over how my B in Honors Geometry could be detrimental to me in the application process. I don’t even want to study math.

Then, after having to cope with the constant idea that one grade could mess up your entire future, you have to take part in extracurricular activities. plus you have to make sure you have changed the world/altered the course of human existence for the better or at least have had some traumatizing experience as a child where you faced great adversity, or something similar.

For example, this was a common application prompt from last year: “Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?” I mean, I could write about when I defended my love for Blair Waldorf and hatred for Serena van der Woodsen from the show Gossip Girl, but I’m pretty sure that’s not what they were asking for. This is perhaps the part of the process, that in reflection, is the most messed up. Well, all of it is messed up, but this really takes the cake.

I actually had myself convinced that because I was not a first chair cellist who didn’t grow up on the streets I wouldn’t get into a competitive college. I literally had a conversation with my parents during my junior year after reading some stories of kids who got into over half of the Ivies (never read those stories, trust me) where I complained that they didn’t force me to pick something and be really, incredibly talented at that one thing, while simultaneously taking part in community service activities that I could pretend to be passionate about, but really only be doing to pad my resume.

I was actually angry about the fact that they allowed me to have a privileged upbringing where I was able to pursue many different interests. Yes, I had become a mindless minion of the college process and lost sight of the benefits of having a variety of different interests.

Notice how I didn’t use the word “passion”, after the application process, since “passion” will become your least favorite word. My parents and I actually started keeping track of the number of times admissions counselors said they wanted “passionate” students. I’m passionate about hating this process, does that count?

So here I am, telling you that whether you are just entering high school or finishing up the process like I am, as cliche as it sounds, do what you want. This process has simply become a way for counselors, parents, college graduates, teachers, and many other people to tell you what the “key” to getting into college is when in reality, there is no key.

You could have never gotten a B in your life and have great test scores and fantastic extracurriculars, the “perfect package,” and not get into your dream school. Or, you could have average grades and then write a killer essay and get in; the thing we all need to realize is that we don’t know.

Yes, it is horrible that many colleges have become so competitive that, at one college tour I attended, an admissions counselor said: “We could accept an entirely different group of students for our incoming class, and still have the same amount of success.” It’s incredibly distressing, but it can also be a relief.

If you want to drop a sport you’ve played for years because it simply isn’t fun anymore, drop it. It’s not going to make or break your application. If “challenging” yourself becomes killing yourself over a class, switch out of it. Eliminate the parts of your high school life that don’t make you happy. Preserve your well-being in the process. It’ll show in your application.

Realize that if you don’t get into a school, it just wasn’t the right fit. The school you did get into is going to work for you, and they want you to go. Don’t submit to the process, it has created enough zombies already.


These articles plus more from The Lasso available at