Ed Starzenski, principal of Briar Woods High School, welcomed the Class of 2007, faculty, family and friends to the Ashburn school’s first graduation ceremony the night of Wednesday, June 20.
"Not many students can say that they were the first graduating class of any school. It is a distinction and a memory that you will carry with you for the rest of your lives," Starzenski said. "One day you will have the distinction of being invited back to Briar Woods’ 50th anniversary as the first graduating class. At that time, you will be 67 or 68 and I will be 105. But I hope you will always remember these first days at Briar Woods."
SUPERINTENDENT Edgar B. Hatrick reminded the students of a long-term assignment he gave them.
"As I was walking in, I was remembering the dedication of this building two years ago. It was a beautiful new building, but it didn’t then have a spirit and a life. And what I urged you to do that day was to convert this modern building into a true learning community," Hatrick said. "You have not disappointed me at all."
Grace Chen is a true falcon.
In her speech, the valedictorian thanked family members, friends and the faculty at Briar Woods High School for helping make Briar Woods feel like home.
COMMENCEMENT SPEAKER Karolyn D. Young, who holds a master’s degree from the University of Michigan in aerospace engineering and now serves as the senior project engineer in the Imagery Program Division of the Aerospace Corporation, challenged Briar Woods’ Class of 2007 to live "A 3-D Life."
"Your life is no virtual-reality game," she said. "There are no do-overs."
A 3-D life, according to Young, is an authentic life, a discerning life and a dedicated life.
This generation, Young said, is the first generation to be bombarded by "spin doctors" and "knock offs." She encouraged the graduating class to be themselves and to find out who they really are by living life to its fullest and to be dedicated to being their best.
"Falcons of 2007, you are the first class. You are ready to show the way. You are the real thing and this is your time. It is time to embrace each other and life. So live a 3-D life of authenticity, developing your full potential, discerning the world around you and being dedicated to helping others," Young said. "We celebrate you tonight because we believe in you, you too, must believe in yourselves. So tonight, whatever your past, lock your wings and soar high above the rest."
BEFORE STARZENSKI called each of the 87 graduates across the school’s stage to receive their diplomas, he shared a few of his first memories of Briar Woods High School with the audience.
Starzenski said he remembered selecting the schools colors, blue and orange, the school’s mascot, the falcon, selecting band uniforms, and the first day of school. He remembered hearing the band play under the portico, and the first student body assembly. He went on to remember the first Homecoming dance, even though there was no senior class.
"You talked me into that," he said. "I’ll remember that."
When Starzenski finished his speech, the Class of 2007 gave him a standing ovation.
"Thank you for making my transition a wonderful experience. I will remember you always. You have made my stay here the best experience that I have had in my career. I’ll never forget you," he said. "And I want you to know that it has been my privilege and my honor to serve as your principal for these past two years. Thank you for all that you have done to make Briar Woods High School a really special place."
The principal congratulated each of the graduates with a firm handshake and a gentle hug.