Last December Kenzie Duffy’s eighth grade English class at Thoreau Middle School in Vienna had an assignment to write a 15 to 20 line poem. Late in March she learned that her poem, entitled "Home," was composed into a song for choral performances nationwide.
"At first I didn’t realize the significance of it," said Duffy, but now she is enjoying the recognition. David Brunner, a professor of music and director of Choral Activities at the University of Central Florida, composed the music to the lyrics written in "Home."
Duffy was one of many Vienna students who had a chance to present their projects and accomplishments at the Vienna Tysons Corner Regional Chamber of Commerce annual Youth and Education Luncheon last week.
Aaron Dishner and Mark Romano, seniors at Oakton High School, showed a video of their weekly 12-minute high school news program. Romano said the program does more than report news relevant to the school and its sports teams, it incorporates mini dramas and comedies within it. "We also do a Cougar Spotlight, on people with interesting talents, like rock climbing," said Romano. He added that spotlighting students at Oakton was important, because it is hard to get to know everyone in a school of 2,400 students.
Fourth grader Jack Jenet, Green Hedges Elementary School, presented a project on the Sumerian civilization that his social studies class completed. A model of a Sumerian community included a chariot, tools such as daggers and a ziggurat. Jenet said his classmates took interest in the civilization because of the large size of the ziggurats.
TWO YOUNG ENTREPRENEURS from the Marshall Academy explained the early success they have had with their business plans. Casey Reichl, a senior at Marshall Academy, bakes, decorates and sells doggie treats. Her products can be found at Black Eyed Susan, a shop on Church Street. Reichl, who lives in a house with three dogs, five birds and a rabbit, created her business plan as a part of a school assignment with her entrepreneurship class. Since then, she has won multiple awards for the business plan, including the first place award at the state DECA — marketing club for students — competition. Later this year she will travel to the national DECA competition, in Florida.
"This year has just been crazy," said Reichl. She said she wants to attend college, but is sure that when she comes back from college she will continue to run her business.
Reichl’s classmate at Marshall Academy, Sara Moorad, expects to go to Chicago this summer to meet with her first client. Moorad grew up in the United Arab Emirates, where people use non-alcoholic perfumes, which is exactly what Moorad’s product is. "I’m going to Chicago to meet with my first client and hopefully go into wholesale," said Moorad.
Three sixth graders from Flint Hill Elementary School — Wyatt Surbey, Sheila Crespy and Hannah Shelton — showcased their project to enhance the school’s courtyard. Surbey said the courtyard is not used because of its appearance. "It just sits there, it’s not really fun looking at it," he said. A student-painted mural and a few benches could create an environment where students could learn and play, said Shelton. Crespy thinks the new courtyard could be used for music lessons.
"We’re hoping to get all of this accomplished by next year," said Surbey. "We appreciate your support in making our bland court interesting."
The luncheon attendees were also treated to a tap-dancing performance from Madison High School seniors Sid Raskind and Alex Skaltsounis, stars of the school’s upcoming play, "No, No, Nanette."
THE SUPERINTENDENT of Fairfax County Public Schools, Jack Dale, said the students’ thinking is an example of the type of thinking the school board wants to encourage. "What should we be preparing our kids for," said Dale. Financial literacy, for example, is one thing the students could learn in the near future, given the state of the housing market and mortgage issues. "We want our kids to understand those things and come up with creative solutions," said Dale.
Louise Foreman, vice president of human resources for the Navy Federal Credit Union, encouraged the students to continue to develop communication, leadership and teamwork skills. "The things you are doing today in class, believe it or not, you will get a chance to display those skills in the business world," she said. She also encouraged the business leaders gathered at the chamber luncheon to continue to identify, develop and reinforce the skills and talents of young people.
The chairman of the chamber’s youth and education committee, Barbara McHale, said the chamber would continue to support local schools and their projects. The chamber is working on a program for sixth graders in which they could see Town of Vienna and Fairfax County government’s work in progress. It is also involved with the local high schools’ ethics day. "I’m amazed at these students, their thought process and how level-headed they can be," said McHale about Ethics Days she had attended in the past. She added that the chamber would like to honor an educator each year, not necessarily a teacher or a principal, and hopes to have such an award instituted by next year’s luncheon.