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Rams 'Shine Like Champions'

Robinson students wish each other well, share a last laugh during graduation ceremony.

J.W. Robinson’s Class of 2006 bid a fond farewell to their school on Thursday, June 15, in a ceremony that should be remembered for things that didn’t go according to plan.

As the more than 680 students filled the floor of the Patriot Center at George Mason University, it quickly became apparent that not enough chairs had been set up to accommodate all the students. With a chorus of laughs and some help from the Robinson Singers and Women's Ensemble, additional seats were brought in so the students could all hear Andrew Flagel, George Mason University's dean of admissions, give them a friendly nudge to enter the real world with pride in their accomplishments and faith in their future.

“The question becomes, how do you sustain the success you’ve had here at Robinson?” Flagel asked the students during is keynote speech.

He encouraged them to “establish your own path,” saying that the university’s basketball team neglected to think of themselves as underdogs during their recent NCAA tournament performance but preferred to play “with different strategies, but also with conviction and honor.”

That path might be difficult to find at times, Flagel admitted, but it was important for the students to find it on their own.

“Your parents are tired,” he said, earning applause and cheers from the crowded arena. “You will be tempted to call or e-mail your parents when things get hard. I have a bulletin for you. You can do most of this stuff yourself,” he said.

IN A CLASS in which one student was recently listed to the USAToday National Scholastic Team, Flagel reminded the students that “excellence and persistence is what you do every day. It’s always a part of who you are,” adding that their “hard work” in the past four years will serve them well as they enter jobs or college paths.

“You must have passion for what you do and enjoy what you’re doing,” he said. “The secret is not what school you go to or what major you pick, it’s now much you enjoy what you’re doing. That’s the true measure of your success.”

Flagel challenged the class to rise to their potential, filled with the belief that “you can do anything. In discussing today with some of you, I know you are aware of the world and you all have incredible optimism that you have the answers. You believe you are the greatest solution, so go out there and change the world.”

The students were taking his “have fun” message to heart during Flagel’s speech — several inflatable beach balls were taken by a man dressed in a blue security shirt who sat along the edge of their rows. Despite the signs banning air horns from the ceremony, short, loud air-horn bursts sounded while students were announced for various awards.

Principal Dan Meier told his students he hoped they’d be able to enjoy their future careers as much as he does, once their Robinson days were over.

“It’s such a joy working here,” he said. “I’ve had opportunities here I never had before in my life. I got to act in a play, I got to be in a dunk tank, I had the opportunity, thanks to the band, to be a conductor.”

ADDRESSING HER classmates, class president Christina Azimi fought back tears while wishing her friends well in their future.

“What could even begin to bring justice to our time together?” she asked.

After living on “Robinson Time” for the past four years, she said, it was soon time to part ways, hoping “the relationships we have will strengthen” even after graduation.

“Everyone told us time would fly by faster than we know,” Azimi said. “We didn’t believe them. We were wrong.”

Before starting her speech, SGA president Mary Dunleavy apologized. “I thought I’d be giving my speech after they handed out the diplomas,” she laughed. “That being said, brace yourselves.”

She took a deep breath and rattled off her speech, entitled “Top Four Things The Class of 2006 Is Happy To Say Farewell To.”

The list included the mortification faced as freshmen the first time they had to change after gym class.

“We’re all so excited that we don’t have to run a mile in jeans anymore, but when you throw that door open, that’s a shock,” she said. “After all, most of us hadn’t hit puberty yet.”

Second on her list was enforcement of the school’s “rigid” dress code. Dunleavy said she felt sorry for the girls who decided to dress inappropriately, according to the code.

“You will get pulled over if you’re not dressed right,” she said. “They thought they looked nice, I guess. And whoever pulls you over makes you wear clothes from the lost and found so you bad for the rest of the day.”

She also said she wouldn’t miss asking for permission to use the bathroom and having do the “walk of shame” up to get her pass book signed. “If you’re gone more than five minutes, just do yourself a favor and go to the clinic. You know everyone’s watching the clock,” Dunleavy said.

Last on her list was the “awkward hello,” endured when passing someone in Robinson’s otherwise empty, quarter-mile-long main hallway.

“That’s why I invented the backpack rummage,” she said. If a student is looking at a piece of paper or appears to be searching for something, most likely they’ll be left alone, she explained.

“In reality, we’re delighted to have experienced each and every one of these things,” she said. “We’ll be able to look into the eyes of awkwardness and adversity and shine like champions.”