Mountain View High’s motto is “Family, Love, Respect,” and it was on full display during the school’s winter graduation, last Tuesday, Feb. 16, at Centreville High.
It was evident when a student speaker became overcome with emotion and her peers called out words of support to her. It showed when the students thanked their teachers and counselors for all their help, and it burst from every word of Principal Gary Morris’s speech.
“I’m proud to be the principal of the best school in Fairfax County,” he said. Then Morris shared some life lessons he’s learned, beginning with a summer job he hated, selling knives door-to-door, and quit after one day.
“I just didn’t want to sell people something they didn’t need,” he told the almost-grads. “The lesson is, be proud of the product you endorse — and being the leader of your school is something I can endorse 100 percent. I know you are quality, genuine, Mountain View-based, approved graduates.”
As a high-school football player, said Morris, he dreamed of someday playing in the NFL, although he knew only a tiny percentage ever make it. But he did, despite the odds. “So never doubt that you can achieve anything,” he said. “I hear about your struggles, failures and triumphs, but you didn’t give up. You’ve accomplished and will accomplish anything you set your mind to.”
Morris said he’s constantly reminded that he’s reached this point in life because of the groundwork laid by others. “My father taught me about treating people fairly, and my brother was my mentor,” he said. “And people like [former Chantilly and Westfield High Principal Dale] Rumberger provided opportunities for me to be the best I could be. And I owe it to you to provide you with the best opportunities and teachers so you can continue to strive for excellence.”
But he also praised the students, themselves. “It is you who’ve conquered the English language in record time and found a way to succeed despite [sometimes] not having a place to stay,” said Morris. “So it’s not time for you to sit back and relax — because the people who helped you get here expect you to continue to push forward.”
So, he told them, “Think and ask yourself, ‘How can you stop now?’ Puff Daddy said, ‘Can’t stop, won’t stop,’ so don’t stop. We love you. Keep these lessons in mind and you’ll go as far as you desire. #GoTimberWolves.”
Three student speakers then shared their stories; first was Sergei Kuehne. “When I first came to Mountain View, I needed seven classes to graduate, but I was overwhelmed,” he said. “I didn’t take advantage of the resources around me and didn’t want anyone’s help. I wasn’t succeeding; I was making stupid decisions that could ruin my life.”
As a result, he didn’t graduate when he’d planned. But, he said, “Mountain View made it easy to come back, and the teachers made me feel I wasn’t alone. [This time], I was ready to accept help and I felt more confident. I got back on my feet and through the last few months of high school. And I’m deeply appreciative of all the support and encouragement I received here.”
Next was Jada Jones who, obviously grateful to have come so far, first had to compose herself before she could speak. Meanwhile, her classmates yelled to her from the audience, “That’s OK; we’ve got you,” and applauded in support.
“Before I came to Mountain View, I was the class clown and was afraid to open up to people, so I didn’t trust anyone,” she said. “But the Mountain View teachers showed me love, despite the way I was acting, and they didn’t give up on me. The staff helped me build trust.”
Along the way, Jones also realized she was a role model for her younger brother, but “not a good one,” so she vowed to change. “Mountain View motivated me, and I was on the AP honor roll each semester,” she said. “But I couldn’t be a leader until I learned to love myself. It doesn’t matter about your fallouts, but how strong you are to get through them. And I’m proud to have become the leader I am today.”
The third speaker was Covin Davis. “I’d only heard bad things about Mountain View; but when I came here, I learned they were wrong,” he said. “And Mr. Morris told me that, when I walk out of my house, I carry my family’s name on my forehead. So I stopped making bad choices and eliminated the distractions in my life. I now enjoy reading and creating art.”
“We at Mountain View are focused on succeeding and doing great things,” continued Davis. “Here, a young father balances school and a job while taking care of a son at home. Here, you learn about the struggles your classmates went through in their homelands. Mountain View’s teachers are the only ones who ever got me excited to learn, and I’m truly thankful for them.”
“My whole life has changed because I came to Mountain View, and that makes me appreciate life more,” said Davis. He then thanked his friends and family for their support and reminded his classmates that their actions also affect others. And, added Davis, “Thank you to my father; I’m sorry for all the hardship I put you through. You taught me better, and I love you.”
“Stories such as these are why our teachers are so happy to come to school each day,” said Assistant Principal Claudia Pirouzan-Jones. She then thanked the parents for “sharing your children with us.”