Hunter Hicks and Natalie Burke are both seniors at Meridian High School and will be a part of the first graduating class of the school since its name change and the opening of the new campus. Both received the Spirit of Meridian Award and will be honored in this year’s Memorial Day as the King and Queen. The Falls Church News-Press sat down with the students to discuss their time at Meridian, their future plans and more.
News-Press: How did you end up with the King and Queen titles?
Natalie Burke: “I received the Spirit of Meridian Scholarship award and received a call informing me of that and learned that a perk of that would be becoming the Memorial Day Queen.”
Hunter Hicks: “It’s the same for me. Our career counselor met with me and let me know I had won the award and that I might be able to get involved at the Memorial Day parade. The next day I got an email that said ‘congratulations on being King.’”
N-P: What are some of your favorite memories from Memorial Day celebrations in Falls Church in the past?
Hicks: “I’ve lived here my entire life and I don’t think I’ve ever been around for a Memorial Day parade so this will be my first. While I haven’t ever been to a Memorial Day Parade, I can remember always being jealous for missing it when reading about it in the Falls Church News-Press.”
Burke: “I moved here four years ago so I haven’t been to any parades yet, it’ll be my first time as well. I’m excited that I get to be involved in the parade for my first time going to the event.
N-P: What are your plans for the parade this year?
Burke: “We’re going to be riding in a car throughout the parade and then we get to sit with the members of the City Council during the rest of the parade procession. That’s all the information I’ve received so far but I’m excited to see what the rest of the day will be like.”
N-P: What has your experience at Meridian been like? Do you have a favorite memory from your time?
Hicks: “I’ve loved my time [at Meridian], I’ve had a lot of fun. I feel like I can just completely be myself here and if I’m getting judged I don’t care. I think my favorite memory was prom a couple of weeks ago when I was thrown up in the air and crowd surfed for the first time.”
Burke: “I’ve also had a really great experience. I thought that transition from the old school to the new school was really interesting in terms of being able to have such a great new facility. I’ve really enjoyed being able to have lunch with my friends on the patios and just bonding with them overall in all of my classes. I think this year, in senior year specifically, it was nice to see the grade merge together. I think with Covid and having school online for two years it was pretty difficult to have that social interaction. This year everyone has been in the same place and you could really see the difference and I’ve really enjoyed that. I’ve also enjoyed being a part of sports teams. In particular, the senior night for my volleyball season has been one of my favorite high school memories.”
Hicks: “That just reminded me, I managed field hockey, basketball and lacrosse. Senior night was awesome for those, I got to wear a tiara! Blowing the horns for those were some great memories.”
N-P: If you could go back in time and tell your freshman self one thing, what would it be?
Burke: “I would say to trust the process, there are going to be a lot of ups and downs to high school. Covid happening added a new layer to a high school experience that you wouldn’t normally consider. Don’t beat yourself up on the low days and really enjoy the high days. I think I spent a lot of time just looking forward to the future, I would tell myself to slow down a little bit and enjoy the moment– really look around and appreciate what’s happening now.”
Hicks: “High school is a very unique place and every moment, even the down and dull ones, offers a spectacle.”
Burke: “Learning to laugh at certain instances that you might not have expected to go a certain way has been really important too. Make sure that you aren’t taking anything too seriously and just enjoy yourself.”
N-P: What are your plans for after graduation? What are your career aspirations?
Burke: “I’m going to UVA. I have a lot of interests. I’m really interested in psychology, sociology and anthropology, really any of the social sciences. I’m interested in attending law school after I graduate. I don’t have a specific career in mind. Right now I’m just interested in learning more about the fields I’m interested in and seeing what sticks to determine what I want to do in the future.
Hicks: “I feel like I can relate to that a lot too. I’m going to Stanford. I’ll be minoring in statistics but I’m undecided on my major. I have an interest in econometrics and industrial management. I want to eventually get my graduate degree in business. One dream career would be to own my own coin firm, I’m a big coin collector so that sounds fun right now. But I’m undecided in terms of my career.
N-P: What is your message as King and Queen to your subjects?
Burke: “I would say just to enjoy yourselves. Be kind to each other and place an emphasis on acceptance, empathy and awareness of your surroundings.”
Hicks: “Enjoy the spectacle, whether it’s good or bad.”