teaser: "One of Herndon's Greatest"
<pc>Photos by Brian McNeill/The Connection
The new venue, from the high-school football field to George Mason University's air-conditioned Patriot Center, was the start of change last Friday for the 492 graduating seniors from Herndon High School, and a more comfortable change for their families and friends.
Even though the ceremony was indoors this year, it still included random spurts of silly string, beach balls and foghorns. There were also a few surprises, including an inflatable monkey that briefly crowd-surfed the sea of red hats before it was confiscated.
Another surprise, which drew the most attention, was Sarah Sanders, who upon taking stage, disrobed to reveal a white rabbit costume underneath, complete with ears, before stepping forward to shake her tail and receive her diploma.
THE CLASS OF 2004 has earned the reputation as not only one of the kindest to walk the halls of the high school, but also one of the highest academically ranked classes.
"Academically, they have the highest SOL [Standards of Learning] pass rate," said John Werner, assistant principal at the practice graduation. "Their GPA is the highest, they have a [greater] three or better rate on their AP [advanced placement] tests — which is some of the best, and they have the largest percentage of kids taking AP classes at Herndon High School."
He also said the class has the most minority students to receive honorable mention for the national merit scholarship.
Guest speaker and a favored chemistry teacher, Anthony Petras, noted the communal nature of the class and its desire to succeed, saying, "it's your wisdom, your talent, your giving nature."
"The class of 2004 has proven to be one of Herndon's greatest," he said. "You worked as a group to make academics a priority."
The ceremony also recognized the 81 students who were members of the National Honor Society and students who maintained a GPA of 3.8 or higher, and 4.0 or higher throughout the last four years.
This year's Faculty Award winner, Kyle O'Connor, was announced by principal Janice Leslie who listed his numerous activities, that were school and community related. Leslie said this award was the highest honor a graduating senior could receive.
O'Connor was also recognized for maintaining a GPA of 3.8 or higher for the last four years and will be attending the University of Virginia in the fall.
THROUGHOUT THE CEREMONY there were shouts and whistles by family members and friends to get their senior's attention, as well as random blasts of foghorns as the students received their diplomas.
Becky Johnson, mother to graduate Jena Johnson, said this was her third and final high-school graduation.
"She's my baby, she's my last," Johnson said. "I have mixed feelings. I'm excited because she's going off to college, but it's sad."
Wendy Roberts, mother to graduate Amanda Roberts, like Johnson had attended a prior graduation.
"It was very thrilling, very gratifying," she said. "Even though it's my second daughter to graduate, it's equally as great and wonderful."
She added that she thought this year's ceremony was "physically more comfortable" than the other, but the acoustics could have been better, especially when the choir sang to start the ceremony.
The acoustics weren't hard to hear when Leslie began to tell the seniors to move the tassel from the left side of their mortarboards to the right, prompting the students to erupt in applause, shout and throw their caps in the air.
From there, students and parents crowded the various exits to meet outside the arena in the muggy afternoon heat that had many thankful for the air-conditioned building.
Solitaire Leon, a graduate of all of 10 minutes, summed up the general attitude of her class as she searched to celebrate her accomplishment with her family.
"It feels amazing," she said. "Finally, finally, finally!"