Over 500 seniors graduated from Oakton High School Friday, June 24, and the sentiment of the day was one of expectation.
"It’s a great feeling, that we’re all off to better things next year," said Caitlin Fisher, who will be attending the University of Chicago.
Oakton’s commencement ceremony, which took place at the Patriot Center at George Mason University, was a multimedia event. Senior members of the Oakton High School Band played "The Star Spangled Banner," and a cappella singing group Vocal Point performed Eve 6’s "Here’s to the Night."
The ceremony also featured a video that reflected on the graduating class’ four years at Oakton High School. Produced by graduates Brian Skram, Anthony Haro, Jenna DiLucente, Alexander Schoof and Laura Villareal, the video set a series of still images and clips from Oakton’s football and basketball games to music.
"I can tell you this much, Oakton learned us really good," said William Mason, delivering a humorous reflection address. He described fashion shows and logarithmic bingo matches in French and math classes, as well as the Oakton Cougars’ position as three-time lacrosse champions.
"Sometimes it’s depressing to think about leaving the many people we’ve met here," said Mason. "But if I could give you just one piece of consolation, it’s that you’ll make better friends and memories in college."
Guest speaker Dr. Belle Wheelan, the Virginia secretary of education, also gave a lighthearted speech to the graduates.
"Learn to laugh," said Wheelan, offering tips for life after high school. "Y’all gotta lighten up a little."
Wheelan also challenged the students to "always strive for excellence," to continue to learn, to respect themselves, and to "learn from those who are different from you." Oakton High School is one of the most ethnically diverse in the state, she said.
After principal Dr. John Banbury called the name of the last Oakton graduate, over 500 red caps went flying into the air.
"(Graduation) just feels great," said senior Mahad Omar. "It was a good year. It went well, I had a lot of fun."