As the lines of black and gold marched into the Patriot Center last Monday, June 19, the audience cheered wildly. The 681 students in attendance made up Westfield High School’s sixth graduating class since the school opened in 2000.
The audience remained standing as the Fairfax County Police Honor Guard displayed the American flag, and Westfield’s chamber singers sang the National Anthem. Anne Dreyfuss, the class treasurer, led the Pledge of Allegiance, and the commencement ceremony was ready to begin.
Class President Danielle Bennett welcomed the audience of family and friends, and Caroline Scherbarth, class secretary, greeted the dignitaries and guests from Fairfax County Public Schools.
Colleen McCarron, Graduation Committee chair, introduced the student speaker, as is Westfield's tradition.
The speaker is chosen after students submit potential speeches for faculty members to review. This year, Bailee Barfield was selected. She spoke of the difficulty of change and leaving the familiar. “What was once familiar will become a memory of the past,” she said. But she hoped for the best for each of her classmates, telling them, “I wish each and every one of you happiness and fulfillment in what’s to come.”
The Faculty Award, given to the student who teachers feel best exemplifies the spirit of the school, was presented to Kristen Ridenhour. In spite of being diagnosed with an auto immune disease in 10th grade, she has accomplished a great deal and has excelled in athletics, academics and service.
She led the school’s gymnastics team, and in 2005 she was ranked third in the state. She has poured countless service hours into Habitat for Humanity over the past three years.
The Student Award highlighted another of the graduates, this one chosen by her fellow classmates. Class Vice President Lauren Trainor presented the award by saying, “As one student so eloquently stated, ‘Who else?’” The winner, Danielle Bennett, was class president and is a member of the National Honor Society. For her involvement in school activities and her positive attitude, the students wanted to honor her.
Sean Youngberg, class historian, presented the school with a gift so Westfield will have something to remember this group of graduates. A large sign declaring Westfield as “Home of the Bulldogs” will now hang by the school's front entrance. In addition, a bench engraved as belonging to the class of 2006 will sit outside the school.
Westfield has always had a stellar academic reputation, and the class of 2006 is no exception. Assistant Principal Tim Thomas read the names of 24 candidates for the position of valedictorian, asking them to “stand and be recognized.” Said Thomas: “These students have worked diligently to earn grade point averages over 4.0.”
After all the candidates were honored, Thomas named the class valedictorian. With a staggering 4.15 grade point average, Bailee Barfield received this honor.
Finally, the moment the audience had been waiting for arrived. Principal Mike Campbell presented each of the graduates with their diplomas to officially cap their high-school experience.
Then Bennett returned to the podium once more, instructing her fellow graduates to turn their tassels. Next, Campbell walked up to give the final farewell, yelling, “Class dismissed!” In response, the graduates’ hats went flying, and the class of 2006 walked outside to meet whatever life after high school has to offer them.