Fairfax: Encouraged to ‘Make the World Smile’

Fairfax: Encouraged to ‘Make the World Smile’

Graduates in procession past the W.T. Woodson Band conducted by Brett Dodson.

Graduates in procession past the W.T. Woodson Band conducted by Brett Dodson. Photos by Alexandra Tecco/The Connection

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John Kook, Hannah Park and Andy Park on top of Hansol Chang making sure graduate Jenny Park sees them using height, signage and exuberantly yelling her name.


Father, Mike Park, graduate Jenny Park, brother Andy Park, and mother Jessica Park with a photo of Jenny and her brother Andy as children.

W.T. Woodson High School had nearly 600 graduates in the Class of 2016 which celebrated commencement Saturday, June 18 at Eagle Bank Arena. Parents, friends and family was expressed their joy in cheers, screams, plastic hand clappers, football rattles and a solitary, illicit, air horn blast. The students batted small summer beach balls and a large gold and black one with “Class of 2016” emblazoned on it, before they were caught and collected in the back. The playful atmosphere was not surprising when students, James Caldwell’s and Arthur Richard’s, opening welcome began with “...High School was tight!”

Student Blake Phillips in his “Charge to the Class” shared Woodson’s difficulties and triumphs. Woodson’s artists, athletes and academics “together faced rocky relationships. Some of us didn’t make it out of the other side,” Phillips said, referring to the students who died by suicide, a loss still felt by many of the graduates. There was a moment of silence to remember “…those would should have been in these seats.” Phillips urged that the class remember the “things school has done to make us stronger together than individuals, victimized.”

Principal Scott Poole shared a letter given to him by a-sixth grader, written for the graduating class. A candid and accurate summary of life in school, it was met with laughter from the graduates and visitors. “Congrats on finishing high school. That’s like 13 years of school. I can barely finish 7 days.” Woodson’s Class of 2016 “encourage(s) me to reflect on the world and my place in it,” said Poole.

“It’s all about the hustle,” said guest speaker Adam Bradley, founder and president of Lead ‘Em Up, a sports coaching program, as well as being one of the hosts of the Hardwood Hustle Basketball podcast. “Healthy hustle requires continuous calibration,” he cautioned. “Who we’re hustling with is often more important that what we are hustling toward.”

“Whatever path you choose, I ask that in the process, you make the world smile,” said Bradley. “The world’s is not scary, it is exciting with opportunities around,” which Bradley encouraged Woodson’s Class of 2016 to explore while remaining “kind and optimistic.”