<bt>Beginning in two weeks, seniors across Fairfax County will be taking their first steps toward adulthood as they walk across a stage in front of all their friends and family to collect a piece of paper saying they have concluded their high-school career.
For private schools, the ceremony can be an opportunity to continue long-standing traditions, as at The Madeira School in McLean or Episcopal High School in Alexandria, or simply to recognize the efforts of close friends, as at Ad Fontes Academy in Centreville or Thornton Friends in Alexandria.
<mh>Ad Fontes Academy
<bt>The Ad Fontes Academy, 14640 Soucy Place in Centreville, will be graduating four seniors Saturday, June 8, at 2 p.m., at the Providence Presbyterian Church in Fairfax. Because the graduation class is small, each senior will play an individual part in the commencement ceremonies, rather than featuring a valedictorian. The guest speaker is Tom Garfield, the superintendent of Logos Academy, a classical Christian music school in Moscow, Idaho.
<mh>Bethlehem Baptist Christian Academy
<bt>Twenty-two students take center stage Friday, May 31, at 7:30 p.m., during the Bethlehem Baptist Christian Academy's graduation ceremonies at the school. Before examinations, which were scheduled for this week, two students were tied for valedictorian, Angela Lohman and Nathan Robinson. Nigerian exchange student Olusola Ayeni-Biu will serve as the salutatorian. Dr. Billy Hamm, a pastoral counselor to missionaries with the Baptist Bible Fellowship International, will be the guest speaker. Leading up to graduation, the senior class has been celebrating New York, the destination for a five-day senior class trip. Last Friday, the seniors came to school wearing Statue of Liberty-inspired hats.
<mh>Episcopal High School
<bt>Since 1892, "Gaudeamus," a song celebrating academic life, has been a fixture in the graduation ceremonies for Episcopal High School, 1200 North Quaker Lane in Alexandria. This year will be no different when the 114 graduates and their family and friends belt out the song, in its original Latin form, during commencement ceremonies Saturday, June 1, at 10 a.m., at the Flippin Fieldhouse on campus.
"It's in the program, so everyone can sing," said Maggie Melson, director of communications. "Everyone here has been practicing."
The baccalaureate will be held at Callaway Chapel, also on campus, Friday, May 31. Later that day, Sarah Boyd Poindexter, who was elected by the senior class, will give the valedictory speech at a ceremony at the Fieldhouse. There is no guest speaker for the graduation; instead the ceremonies focus on the students. In addition to the senior class, two honorary graduates, both foreign exchange students, will participate in the commencement.
<mh>Flint Hill School
<bt>The 64 graduating members of the Class of 2002 at Flint Hill School, 3320 Jermantown Road in Oakton, will be the first to graduate at the newly opened West Campus. The East Campus, housing junior kindergarten through eighth grade, is located on Academic Drive, also in Oakton. The ceremonies will be held Saturday, June 8, and feature Georgetown University president John J. DeGioia as the guest speaker. Emily Sumerville is the valedictorian.
<mh>The Madeira School
<bt>The Madeira School, 8328 Georgetown Pike in McLean, has two long-standing graduation traditions. The ceremonies, weather-permitting, are held outside at the school's amphitheater, and each of the seniors, all girls, wears a white dress and carries 13 red roses. The roses represent the first 13 students to graduate from the school. The commitment to hold the ceremonies outside is so strong that last year's predicted rain showers did not move the commencement indoors. Instead, under each chair was a little red umbrella for when the rains came. The 79 graduates voted Jessica Duke Lindsay the valedictorian, and a former governor of the Bahamas, Sir Orville Turnquest, will be the guest speaker. Affirmation Night takes place the day before graduation, with the seniors providing the entertainment.
<mh>Paul IV High School
<bt>The 294 students graduating from Paul IV High School, 10675 Lee Highway in Fairfax, represent the largest senior class to graduate from the school. The commencement takes place Saturday, June 2, at 2:30 p.m., at the Patriot Center at George Mason University. Richard Lee Armitage, deputy secretary of state, will be the guest speaker. Armitage's daughter Alice is part of the senior class. Matthew Carrol, who will attend the College of William and Mary as a Monroe Scholar in the fall, is the valedictorian. Classmate Christopher Russell, who will be attending Johns Hopkins University, is the salutatorian. The baccalaureate is Friday, May 31, at St. Timothy's in Chantilly, and there is also an after-graduation party for the former seniors.
<mh>St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School
<bt>The 109 seniors graduating from St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School's Upper Campus, 1000 St. Stephen's Road in Alexandria, will have to wait until Prize Day, Friday, June 7, to find out who will be the valedictorian at the graduation ceremonies the following morning, beginning 9:30 a.m. at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria.
There is no waiting to find out who the commencement speaker will be. Dr. David H. Charlton, St. Stephen's and St. Agnes Class of 1969 and president of Church Schools in the Diocese of Virginia, returns to his alma mater to give the commencement address.
The baccalaureate service will be Wednesday, June 5, at 7 p.m. at St. Paul's in Old Town.
<mh>Thornton Friends Upper School, Alexandria Campus
<bt>The 12 students graduating from Thornton Friends, 3830 Seminary Road in Alexandria, will not be taking part in a traditional graduation as most people know it. They will be a part of a traditional Quaker "Called Meeting for Worship," Saturday, June 15, at the Virginia Theological Seminary in Alexandria. There will be no valedictorian or guest speaker. Instead, each senior walks up on stage and sits on a bench facing the congregation. Members of the audience then address the senior, sharing stories about the soon-to-graduate or offering words of wisdom. Afterward, each student receives a diploma.
"It's a very beautiful and emotional time," said Thornton's Jan Rudy.
The Wednesday before graduation, the school will have a luncheon for the seniors.
<mh>Word of Life Christian Academy
<bt>Friday night, May 31, in the main sanctuary at Word of Life Christian Academy, 5225 Backlick Road in Springfield, between 15 and 20 seniors will celebrate their graduation, beginning at 8 p.m. Marisa Albanese was chosen valedictorian. The seniors also elected to have the popular dean of students, David Dawdy, as their guest speaker. In the days leading up to the ceremonies, the school presents a series of awards honoring academic excellence.
<mh>Bishop Ireton High School
<bt>On Friday evening May 31, at 7 p.m. , 166 seniors will graduate from Bishop Ireton High School at 201 Cambridge Road in Alexandria. The ceremony will be held at St. Bernadette's Roman Catholic Church on Old Keene Mills Road in Springfield. The baccalaureate ceremony will take place on Wednesday, May 29 at Holy Spirit Church.