The T.C. Williams Senior High School senior class took a major step to adulthood in participating in their graduation ceremony June 22.
The ceremony was held in George Mason University's Patriot Center, in Fairfax.
At the ceremony Class of 2006 Vice President Sarita Williams told her classmates, "Once we have walked through these doors again we will no longer be seen as children, but as young adults."
Some of the ceremony's speakers talked of the students' experiences in school.
In elementary school, boys were allergic to girls and vice versa, noted Class President Marginis Zamora. By the time the class reached middle school they looked forward to the after school dances as school's high point, Marginis said. "It seems like we all outgrew our allergies by then."
Graduating students had survived construction projects in middle school, Minnie Howard School and at T.C. Williams, said Alexandria City Public Schools Superintendent Rebecca Perry.
Several talked about both the students' past and future, and how they related.
Quoting the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, one of the class' two valedictorians, Todd Bernhard, said, "The roots of education are bitter. But the fruit is sweet.
"We're past the bitter parts of education. It's time to pluck the fruits. Go and find the sweetest one, because you have earned it."
"Our lockers, once full, are now empty," said the class' other valedictorian, Barbara Stoddard. "Our minds, once empty, are now full."
The graduating students will need these full minds, though, because, "we are leaving the comfort zone that has sheltered and protected us these past eighteen years," Barbara said.
Five hundred eighty-four students graduated on June 22, of whom 551 participated in the ceremony.
It was also the last graduation ceremony for Principal John Porter. After 22 years as principal of T.C. Williams, Porter will now be assistant superintendent of administration and public relations for the district. When graduating student James Ross asked those in attendance to stand and applaud Porter, the students' true feelings were apparent — they were noisy and enthusiastic.
While students waited for graduation to begin, several were asked their opinions about the high school and their feelings about graduating.
The high school experience, "was exciting," said graduating student Andee Olson. "It was long but worth it." The friendships and extracurricular sports were the best parts, she said.
Many who liked the school and even one who did not like it, praised the school's teachers.
The school "was all right," said graduating student Lashawn Mitchell. "I wouldn't say it was the best high school — there was a lot of drama." Graduating student Robert Hart was most negative. The school "just sucked," he said. Robert said he had problems with both teachers and students.
Students were generally excited about graduating.
Austin Miller said he was "happy graduating. But it does sort of suck that I have to go out there (into the world) now. There's no more clear sailing."
Asked about her thoughts on graduation, Kathleen Newbould said, "It's really weird. I don't feel I should really be here... I feel like just yesterday I was graduating from elementary school." Yet, she said it was nice to go through the ceremony to acknowledge the great deal of work she had done.