Both W.T. Woodson class officer Andria Sakraida and its principal Robert J. Elliott referred to the maturity of the graduating class of 2002 in the wake of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11 of last year.
"We became closer because of Sept. 11. We proved our maturity that day," said Sakraida, as she welcomed students, families and guests to Robinson Secondary School on Tuesday, June 18 for the graduation ceremony of Woodson's class of 2002.
The class of 2002 is to be "commended for its sense of service," said Elliott. "On 9-11 seniors were helping freshmen who were scared and could reach parents working at the Pentagon or in New York on business. Seniors provided leadership during the blood drive. Halfway through the day the Red Cross had to turn people away — and this was in the spring, not the fall," he said, praising the graduating class.
Sakraida noted in her welcome remarks that the class that came together because of Sept. 11 was a class represented by many diverse groups of scholars, athletes, comedians and actors. She also thanked her parents and teachers. "My years at Woodson would not be the same without devoted teachers."
"Sit back and revel in the moment because today is your day," said Sakraida.
WHAT CLASS VALEDICTORIAN Jared Campbell reveled in was knowing "I have a captive audience."
"Today is a landmark — a transition from dependence to independence; from childhood to adulthood. We have the freedom to take our lives in any direction," said Campbell, captain of the school's It's Academic team and a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Students with 4.0 and higher grade point averages were singled out for recognition, as were other key award winners. The Woodson Service Award went to Thomas Daniel Boehm and Anna Leigh Melnicove. Boehm plans a career in law enforcement and Melnicove will attend Virginia Tech in the fall.
The Woodson Leadership Award was presented to Erica Michelle Hincewicz and Brandon Christian Parker. Hincewicz will attend the University of Pittsburgh and Parker will attend the University of North Carolina.
The Woodson Faculty Award was presented to Campbell and Brian Robert Hedden and Anna Katherine Pawlow took home the Woodson School Award, the highest award the school gives. Campbell will attend the University of Richmond, while Hedden is Princeton bound and Pawlow will attend the College of William and Mary.
The graduation ceremony, held in Robinson Secondary School's gymnasium, featured two large screens with closed captioning and two sign language providers.
AFTER THE CEREMONY former students and their families met up with one another, milling about the hallways and the outside of the school.
Now that graduation is over, "I'm looking forward to New York City," said Ben Shelly, 18, of Annandale, headed to Adelphi University in New York. "I've been there before. It has everything. I'm an east coast kind of guy. There's a good music scene — I play guitar and do vocals," he said.
Also looking forward to getting away is Andrew Lipsey, 18, of Annandale. The new Woodson graduate plans to study physics at Georgia State University. "I'm looking forward to getting out of the house and being on my own."
"I'm looking forward to sleeping in," said Lipsey's girlfriend of nine months Shelby Vidor, 17, of Fairfax. "None of my classes until before 12:30," said the future Florida State Seminole.
Cappy Paquin, 19, of Fairfax is also looking forward to freedom. "I'm looking forward to a lot of freedom and college. My mom tells me it's wonderful," said Paquin, planning to study veterinary medicine at NOVA.
Perhaps going farthest away is Woodson class of 2002 graduate Taaka Ogoola, 18, of Fairfax. She is headed to The London College of Fashion which is part of The London Institute.
"I'll miss her greatly, but I want her to pursue what will make her future," said Florence Ogoola of her daughter.
"I'm looking forward to opening another chapter in the book of life. These past 12 years were so structured, now I can start building my own life," said Taaka Ogoola.