Finally ... Graduation

Finally ... Graduation

West Potomac's week of activities ends with diplomas in hand.

Convocation Ceremony.

Commencement Ceremony.

All-Night Party.

A whirlwind week of activities at West Potomac has come to an end.

The events actually started two weeks ago with a convocation ceremony held June 12.

Betsy Galeota, career resource specialist, said that over $3 million in scholarship money was awarded to the various students. The list of organizations was as varied as the candidates the awards were bestowed upon. Some of the smaller awards were based on association with a particular organization, such as the E. Tommy Thompson Memorial Scholarship for a former Belle View Elementary School student or the Stratford Women's Club scholarship. Others were based on achievement.

Carolyn Amole was the first West Potomac student to receive the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation Scholarship. She was one of 50 students selected out of over 100,000 candidates to receive this $20,000 scholarship.

"There were 105,000 candidates. We were shocked when the man came to the door and told us we had a semi-finalist. It was the first time it was won here," said Galeota.

West Potomac Principal Henry Johnson said, "It is very competitive and she [Carolyn] is the first Fairfax County student to receive this award. Carolyn will be attending Harvard in the fall. She is a remarkable young lady and is quite interesting and an exceptional student. Unlike many of her classmates that year, she chose to remain at West Potomac instead of attend Jefferson. She is editor of the school newspaper and a shining star."

Amole, along with Peter Thomas, was also selected as a National Merit Scholar. This award is granted to less than one percent of the nation's seniors. Amole and Thomas were selected from more than 1.2 million students from more than 20,000 high schools that entered the competition by taking the preliminary SAT test in their junior year. Thomas and Amole also received other scholarships and awards.

Thomas will be attending the College of William and Mary in the fall, and said, "I can't wait to get there. I've heard nothing but good things about it. I love it already."

AS ONE OF THE REQUIREMENTS of the Coca-Cola scholarship, Amole had to write about the person who had influenced her the most. She wrote about English teacher Allan Johnson who she felt helped her to achieve the status of state forensics champion.

"It was a beautiful letter, we had it put on a plaque," said Galeota.

One award that stands out in Galeota's mind is the West Potomac High School PTSA Quantum Leap Award, which was presented to Crystal Hayes.

Galeota said, "This is one that's very meaningful to me. You always hear about the students who win the most competitive scholarships, but this brings me the greatest job. The Quantum Leap Award is granted to the student who has made a giant step in academics during the student's years."

Thara Gilmore was the winner of the Alexandria Sunrise Optimist Club Essay Award.

"This was interesting in the fact that she had won the same contest in eighth grade. She placed third last year and this year she won it. West Potomac students placed second and third," said Galeota.

One of the scholarships, the Joseph A. McAleer, Sr. Scholarship award, was presented by Krispy Kreme to Huong Tran, whose mother is an employee at Krispy Kreme.

Added to financial aid already received by the family, the $20,000 scholarship will help Tran achieve almost full payment for Johns Hopkins University and be the first one in her family to attend college.

"I'm really excited," said Tran. "After 12 years of work, I'm relieved, but kind of scared about going to college."

This sentiment may sum up how many seniors were feeling the week before graduation, but first they had to complete the commencement ceremony, which was held on June 18, at the Patriot Center.

THE CEREMONY opened with a prelude by the West Potomac High School Band, processional of the Class of 2003, and presentation of colors by the WPHS JROTC Color Guard. The WPHS Colonial Singers sang the National Anthem and then the presentations began. Class president Allie Turner welcomed the crowd and then Historian Alyssa Heilman introduced the main speaker, Principal Henry R. Johnson, Jr.

For Johnson, this was an opportunity to look back on his time at West Potomac as he prepares to end his time at West Potomac. Thomas said Johnson gave an overview of his policies and the reasoning behind it.

"I liked Mr. Johnson's speech. He's a great guy. I liked the way he used personal anecdotes and mentioned students by name."

Thomas was one of 13 valedictorians. The valedictorians with the highest averages, Huong Tran, Rachel Titerance and Nili Mehta, were selected to speak.

And then it was time for the All Night Cruise Party.

Held at Belle Haven Country Club, there was something for everybody. From blackjack to karaoke to bingo to the mechanical bull, the only thing the participants could complain about was not having enough time to do it all. Although some did try.

"It was great. I did just about everything," said Thomas.

Tran said, "It was fun. The parents did an amazing job."

Susan McGraw was one of the coordinators of the Senior Cruise, and said, "All of the activities were so well organized and worked like clockwork and I witnessed no behavior issues at all. Everyone seemed to be having fun and truly celebrating which made it all worthwhile for the parent volunteers."