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Mountain View Celebrates 10 Years

Alternative school celebrates a decade, announces scholarships.

Last Friday, June 16, was a banner day for Mountain View School. It celebrated its 10th anniversary, dedicated a school gift and presented awards and scholarships to several deserving seniors.

"We were so fortunate," said Sharon DeBragga, chairman of the scholarship committee. "The community has supported us and, this year, we were able to raise and distribute more than $30,000 in scholarship money."

The day's events began at 9 a.m. under a bright, blue sky with the dedication of a blue-stone rock donated by Luck Stone Quarry to welcome visitors to the school. Gerard Ordoñez of Columbia Gardens Memorials created stencils for the words, "Mountain View School," and its timberwolf mascot logo.

"I helped out in the school's technology center in 2001, so this is my way of giving back," he said. His co-worker Jeff DiMeglio — who also did the carving for the Pentagon Memorial — carved the stone.

Then Jesse Viles — who in 1997 was pregnant and in an abusive relationship, but got a fresh start and a new direction at Mountain View — addressed the crowd, which included both local, school system and school board dignitaries.

Thanks to this school, she was able to graduate from GMU in 2005, get a good job with the American Red Cross and, she said, "provide a loving and stable home for my daughter. Today we celebrate 10 years of Mountain View being not just a brick-and-mortar building, but a place that, for 10 years, has been providing a home for people and saving and changing lives."

PRINCIPAL JIM OLIVER noted a saying by Confucius, "Write your sorrows in the sand because the wind will blow them away. But carve your benefits in stone because no winds can ever take that away." Then, added Oliver, "Mountain View will always be a school of second chances and no one will ever take that away. We're carved in stone today."

The spring awards assembly followed in the auditorium, and Oliver said, "Today, we gather to honor our graduating seniors and to recognize the hard work, endeavors and successes [for which all Mountain View students aim]. Ninety percent overall SOL test scores is a tremendous achievement."

During the ceremony, students received department, attendance and leadership awards. And Staff Sgt. William Davis gave senior Zaira Rivas Barrera the Marine Corps Scholastic Excellence Award for Academic Achievement for her 3.85 GPA.

Then alumni, staff and business representatives presented 24 scholarships. Centreville Community Foundation President Marvin Powell awarded CCF's first-ever scholarship, recognizing community service in the Centreville area. Receiving it was David Dominguez, who's participated in every school, community-service project during his four years of high school.

He's picked up and recycled trash, planted flowers and helped beautify the school and built picnic tables for Mountain View's Mentor Club. Said Powell: "Seeing students sit and eat at the tables makes him very proud because it was a contribution to his school."

Tim Loomis, manager of systems engineering for Digital Focus, the school's business partner, presented a scholarship to Patrick Hitzelberg. "Patrick was a struggling 16-year-old when he came to Mountain View, but he'll graduate as focused, determined and prepared for college," said Loomis. Hitzelberg will attend NVCC and hopes to later major in building construction/construction management at Virginia Tech.

Dreamcatchers is a partnership between GMU and FCPS, with scholarship money from Apple Federal Credit Union. Apple's Dave Gorham presented it to Amber McSpadden and Vanesa Benitez. Both McSpadden and Benitez, a single mother of an 11-month-old son, want to become social workers to give back to the community.

ENNIS AND ENNIS awarded three scholarships, and Mountain View English teacher Orlean Anderson presented them to Christy McGhee, Rebecca Stroud and Casey Harden. Anderson said McGhee began and ended her scholarship essay with the words, "Learning never ends." She's aiming for a degree in business administration.

"Circumstances in her own life helped Rebecca Stroud understand the difference one person can make," said Anderson. "In [her] life, it was a teacher who finally understood what she needed, helped her learn to trust again and got her back on track. Rebecca stated in her essay, 'All kids need someone to believe in them.'"

Harden felt lost and unhappy at her large base school, but thrived at Mountain View and learned the impact a school's environment can have on learning. She hopes to find the same thing at Emory and Henry, a small private college in southwest Virginia.

New Direction's anonymous donor awarded two scholarships. The school's Career Center specialist, Susan Guarino, presented them to Anthony Mensah and Mo Hassan.

"Anthony Mensah was heading down the path of destruction," said Guarino. "He'd lost his home and contact with his family and had dropped out of school. He was constantly depressed because he felt trapped and felt he would never amount to anything. Through a chance encounter with a friend, Anthony discovered Mountain View. He says [it] changed his life and gave him a new sense of pride and dignity in himself."

Guarino said Hassan felt "stuck in neutral. He knew he had potential, but didn't know what it was or how to use it. At Mountain View, Mo made some real changes, [and they] came about through adults who gave him a chance, listened to what he had to say and made him realize that working toward a goal can be meaningful."

The Parent Community Coalition strives to help parents help themselves, and science teacher Susan Culik presented its two scholarships to LaTeaCia Jacobs and Vanesa Benitez.

LIKE BENITEZ, Jacobs is a single mother. "LaTeaCia is receiving a high-school diploma after many years of complications," said Culik. "She stated in her essay that Mountain View changed her outlook on life and helped her become more focused and serious about studying and obtaining a college degree." After college, Jacobs hopes to help children in the juvenile justice system.

The P.E.O. Sisterhood promotes educational opportunities for women. Representatives Shirley Tabor and Marilyn Roberts awarded this scholarship to single mother, Yury Robles. Through many obstacles, her son motivated her to complete her education and, said Tabor, "Yury is a role model in her classes." Her goal is to become a nurse.

The Raytheon Co. Matching Grants Program presented its scholarship to Zaira Rivas Barrera. "Zaira views education as one of the most important things in life," said guidance counselor Ellen Fay. "She came from Guatemala unable to speak English, worked two jobs and wanted an education that was not financially possible in her native country."

One Mountain View teacher called Barrera the most focused student she's ever met. She hopes to become a computer programmer and, said Fay, "Zaira received the highest scores through the scholarship selection process and, because of this extraordinary achievement, will receive a $2,000 scholarship."

Laura Greenspan, president of The Closet of Herndon, awarded its four scholarships to Ronny Angulo, Alex Campos, Glenda Robles Guerrero and Jennifer Zurita. A teacher described Angulo as a quiet leader who gives to others first, carries himself with dignity and is a genuine intellect. And he and some friends raised money to provide poor children near Lima, Peru with a Christmas celebration.

Campos came from El Salvador three years ago and remembered his mother's advice to fight for what he wants and never give up. Greenspan said he plans to attend college, major in computer programming and make his parents proud "so they'll understand that everything they've sacrificed for him wasn't wasted."

Robles Guerrero has shown a thirst for knowledge and pushed herself to achieve. In her own words, she wants to "move ahead and be someone in life." Zurita is interested in international business, languages and psychology but, since her mother's death, she and her father have struggled financially. However, she wants to graduate from college so she can help her father and brother.

Tom Troy, whose son attended Mountain View, awarded the Troy Family scholarship to Anthony Shultzaberger, an aspiring auto technician whose teachers say quickly understands highly complex problems.

TROY ALSO presented the scholarship from VFW Post 5412 in Burke. It went to Dan Dawley, described by school staff as compassionate, kind, smart, inquisitive and resourceful.

The Mountain View Community awarded scholarships to Chad Hunt and Shanelle Davis, who explained what the school has meant to them. "Chad has a sincere hope to make a difference in society," wrote Lin Spence from the English Department. "[He] wants to become a teacher and coach to have a positive impact on the lives of young people the way his teachers and coaches have impacted him."

Spence said Shanelle once hated school, but considers Mountain View a "miracle, a blessing and my second chance in life." She says because she was treated as an adult here, she acted like one.

The Woodruff Family scholarship honors Chuck Woodruff's son and daughter who graduated from Mountain View. Spence presented it to LaToya Ingram, an aspiring nurse, who wrote in her essay, "This school gave me freedom and a better understanding of how the real world will be. It's like they held my hand and guided ... my foot."

And English Department Chairman Ann Bearden presented the Thomas Tupper Storyteller Award to Ronny Angulo and Alex Campos. Her father recently died, and these scholarships were in tribute to him.