Members of the Mount Vernon-Lee Chamber of Commerce made sure that students and educators received their due last week. At their annual Honoring Education Dinner, they gave awards to the two top educators and scholarships to six graduating students.
Receiving awards were Diana Margonie, career specialist at Bryant Alternative High School, and Sheila Cooper, Kindergarten teacher at Clermont Elementary School.
Joan Gros, president of the Chamber, presented them with a plaque, and spoke briefly about each. She said that Cooper has been teaching at Clermont for the past 17 years, and her students gave her the highest accolades, as evidenced by their letters, which read, "She teaches us so much. She teaches us to be good. She's nice."
Gros said that Margonie was "one of their own," in that she belongs to the Chamber. "We know firsthand what she's done for our community," said Gros.
A letter submitted to the Chamber by Deborah Halla, development officer at United Christian Ministries, said, "Diana is an amazing individual who is dedicated to giving her students the best possible chance at a meaningful and fulfilling career. She has initiated numerous programs at Bryant in only four years, including the National Honor Society Club (Bryant is the only alternative school with an NHS Club), the Beta Club, the Starbucks Community Book Drive to collect books for the students’ children, the scholarship fund, a golf tournament to raise funds for the scholarship fund, and the Botball program."
GROS ALSO PRESENTED four $500 scholarships to students selected by their respective schools. Lisa Soundara, from West Potomac High School, said that she plans to attend Marymount University and major in business. Aresh Hematti is from Lee High School and plans to attend George Mason University. He has been active in the Future Business Leaders Association (FBLA) at Lee and has also been working as a sales representative for Sprint.
Rosa Ortega received the scholarship for Bryant Alternative High School and said, "I'm happy to be here and to be chosen to receive the scholarship." She also ran the 50/50 raffle during the dinner.
Zeman Kassa was the student selected from Mount Vernon High School. Two other scholarship winners, Aresha Nichole Smith from Hayfield High School and Carmen Leung from Edison High School, were unable to attend.
Isis Castro, Fairfax County School Board chairman, spoke about how wonderful it was to have time to honor teachers and students. She said, "Those first few grades are so fundamental. Twenty-four hours a day is not enough time for planning and making sure children are learning. I thank you for choosing the profession."
Castro spoke about the Newsweek article, where all of the Fairfax County public high schools were named among the most challenging schools in the country.
"That's something to be proud of," she said. She also mentioned that five students from the county had received top science awards.
Chris Braunlich, Fairfax County School Board member for Lee District, said that he appreciated the balance between the Lee and Mount Vernon schools. He also noted the range of educators selected (kindergarten through high school).
"You folks do a wonderful job," said Braunlich about Margonie and Cooper.