Before graduating last week, Westfield High School seniors filled the hallways of GMU's Patriot Center. They carried bags and headed toward their pre-arranged destination with a certain determination.
Parents and siblings moved from row to row, looking for that magical spot that would let them see everything that happened, while still allowing them a chance to escape quickly to meet their graduates after the ceremony.
THEY PATIENTLY waited through the omnipresent "Pomp and Circumstance March #1," the singing of the National Anthem and the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance. All these elements officially began Westfield High's graduation ceremony of 645 students, held at the Patriot Center last Wednesday, June 22.
Rachel Silver, the first student speaker, served the audience a small slice of high-school life and a quiz.
"True or False? It's OK to date your best friend's girlfriend or boyfriend. True or False? It's OK to let your friends know what's on a test they have next period," said Silver.
She did not give time for her makeshift class to answer, and instead told them what Westfield students had gained from their experiences. "Regardless of the answer, we learned the principles of honor, integrity, loyalty and honesty," she said.
Silver listed dancing, drama, enthusiasm and Internet jargon as some of the subjects that students had learned during high school.
"I've heard it said that the past four years are the best years of our lives," she said. "But I know the best are yet to come. Remember who you are and where you came from."
She urged the students and even the audience to try new things and experience life to the fullest. "Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than the things you did do," said Silver.
Next, it was time for the presentation of the Faculty Award, given to a student for overcoming adversity and for academic achievement. This year's recipient was Mazin Abdelgader, a student who was forced to flee Sudan and overcome a formidable language barrier — all the while working for a local retailer and helping the soccer team reach the state semifinals. He received a standing ovation by his fellow classmates.
Jacque Lambert, senior class vice-president, then presented the Student Award to Raquel "Roxie" Virginia Alsruhe. Lambert said Alsruhe was described by her classmates as "someone I admire" and also as "someone who best represents the best of the class."
"THIS PERSON has the ability to excite and motivate the Class of 2005," said Lambert.
Lindsey Williams, the senior class historian, revealed the student gift to the school — a large, flat-screen monitor that displays announcements and important information.
"We thank the Westfield faculty and staff for all they have done for us over the past four years," said Williams.
Westfield Assistant Principal Timothy Thomas had the honor of introducing not one, but two class valedictorians, whose identical GPAs stood at 4.133.
Valedictorians Lauren Tindall and Shilpa Agarwal took the stage to offer their fellow classmates some words of wisdom. Agarwal looked both to the past and the future during her brief speech, where she also found time to praise Westfield's faculty and staff.
"Throughout my four years at Westfield, [the faculty has] always given us hope and encouragement, even when our steps have faltered. We are hopeful and motivated as we enter into a new world," said Agarwal.
Tindall said the future can be intimidating, but that shouldn't stop students from being active and pursuing their goals. "Hearing about everyone's futures is a bit daunting, to say the least. But take chances and get involved and don't forget to help others. Life isn't a spectator sport," said Tindall.
After Robert Yarborough, director of student services, certified that all students in attendance were eligible for graduation, he introduced Mike Campbell, completing his first year as Westfield's principal.
Campbell began by praising his students — not for graduating, but for an achievement that he saw as even more difficult.
"And they said you couldn't do it," he said. "I'm not talking about graduation — that was easy. But that it was impossible to improve upon the old senior class. You proved them wrong. We excelled in the arts, winning Best Musical at the Cappies. Athletes continued to win district and other titles."
Campbell then paused for a moment to repeat the school's motto: "Yes, we proved that tradition never graduates." He also surprised the audience with a unique choice for the Senior Award.
"THIS SENIOR was admired by his friends," said Campbell. "He was on time to class, most of the time. He demonstrated leadership skills, most of the time. He worked hard, most of the time. He showed school spirit, all the time. The winner of the Senior Award is the whole class of 2005," said Campbell.
Next came the presentation of diplomas, and a long line of students filtered through the gambit of staff and faculty to shake hands with Campbell and enjoy a few moments as the center of attention at the GMU Patriot Center.
During this time, several beach balls made appearances and air horns pierced the muffle of a thousand voices, in order for family and friends to give a little more attention to a special someone.
After the students shook hands and took their diplomas, and after the choir sang the Westfield Alma Mater and tassels took their rightful places, the principal made one last announcement.
"It is my honor to declare you all graduates of Westfield High School," said Campbell. "Class dismissed."
Boy, did the hats fly.