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Stories from Students: Inner Voice Found

Meredith Shonebarger had teachers at alternative school who told her she amounted to everything.

Meredith Shonebarger not only gave a graduation speech at Mountain View's graduation on June 16, she was the recipient of a speech, as well.

Shonebarger, who was expelled at the end of her freshman year at Westfield High School more than three years ago, received a scholarship and a Faculty Award at Mountain View's graduation ceremony, presented to her by art teacher Dwight Lissenden.

"One of this year's Faculty Award winners is a young lady who indubitably found that inner voice here. In fact, that inner voice became so loud and powerful that it spoke not only to her but to all of us; it not only gave her wings to fly, but gave her wings strong enough to lift up those around her," Lissenden said.

"The faculty and staff witnessed it as she reversed the course of an all-too-common, self-consumed adolescent mired in drama and some serious trouble; a student who, because of something she did, was required to attend Mountain View, as no other Fairfax County Public School could, or would, take her," Lissenden said. "She reached out to us with her sense of humor, her caring, and her tenacity, making her one of the most involved and most influential Mountain View students in the entire history of the school."

Less than one week after her graduation, Meredith and her father, Steve Shonebarger, drove back to the school system's administrative building where she learned she would be expelled. This time, Meredith was there as the only student representative on a panel to select Mountain View's new principal.

"That's the satire of the whole thing," said Steve Shonebarger. "I wanted to say, 'Remember her? You said she was not good enough.'"

At the beginning of high school, Meredith had teachers who told her that she would amount to nothing. At the end of high school, Meredith had teachers who told her she amounted to everything.

"Most importantly though, Meredith, you found your voice. You are a beautiful, strong confident young lady looking forward to a career in film," Lissenden said. "Yes, Meredith, you went to the edge, jumped, and now you are soaring."