On June 6, I had occasion to go to South Lakes High School, the Alma Mater of our three children, to witness the 2013 South Lakes Seniors Awards Ceremony. While I had come to see one particular scholarship presented, I found myself caught up in a wonderful evening of recognition for scores of deserving young people.
Twenty-two community-based scholarship awards were presented to individuals and small groups of seniors for achievements in an amazing array of endeavors. There were also eight categories of special awards presented by groups within the school. Each presentation featured stirring tributes and glowing youngsters walking to the stage to receive award documents to the roar of applause from an appreciative crowd of peers, friends, faculty and very proud families.
Principal Kim Retzer, a graduate of South Lakes herself and a new mother, welcomed the audience and gave a special tribute to the awardee seniors noting the record amount of scholarships to be presented—over $15 million ($15,143,737 to be exact), several million dollars above the previous SLHS record.
Several scholarships were based on military studies—Marine, Army, and Navy ROTC, special leadership recognition by the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets, and announcement of an appointment to the U.S. Air Force Academy. These were major awards financially, amounting to up to all-expenses paid four-year scholarships in a couple of cases.
Three especially touching scholarships, recognizing academic and athletic performance, were given by families in memory of previous SLHS graduates who died tragically before reaching their own potential. The many scholarships recognized excellence in areas of academic performance, leadership and citizenship, sometimes with financial need a factor along with excellence. There were too many other scholarships, partial or full, to cover in this space. To name just a few: the Rotary Club of Reston, PTSA Academic Boosters, American Association of University Women, Alpha Phi Alpha, Dolphin, Washington Korean Women, and Northern Virginia Student Peace Scholarships.
Special Awards within the school recognized, among others, the Class of 2013 officers, National Merit and Achievement Scholars, and International Baccalaureate Diploma candidates. In addition, each department of South Lakes named the top performer of the 2013 class in each discipline: English, math, science, theatre, arts, military science, history, social science, foreign languages, athletics and more. Accomplishments recognized included not only grades but also leadership and special achievements. And, they were impressive!
It seemed to me that achievements of many South Lakes seniors were of the sort that might have been expected of college, not high school level students in the bygone days of my own youth. And, I could not help but think what these amazing people might have accomplished if they’d been given full nights’ sleep during their school years! What if their classes had started at 9 a.m. (as in Loudoun County) instead of 7:20 a.m. (Fairfax County)?! Let’s see—1.5 hours each day multiplied by 180 days per year multiplied by three years equals 810 additional hours of sleep. Just imagine!