Students Who Work for Peace Honored in Fairfax County: Mount Vernon Area

Students Who Work for Peace Honored in Fairfax County: Mount Vernon Area

The winners of the 2019 Fairfax Student Peace Awards. The students from all around the county are honored for the work they do to sow the seeds of peace, resolve conflict, and promote understanding among the diverse people of Fairfax County, in their schools and in the community.

The winners of the 2019 Fairfax Student Peace Awards. The students from all around the county are honored for the work they do to sow the seeds of peace, resolve conflict, and promote understanding among the diverse people of Fairfax County, in their schools and in the community. Photo by Andrea Worker.

2019 Peace Awards Recipients

Students from 22 Fairfax County public schools have been named recipients of the 2019 Student Peace Awards of Fairfax County, designed to recognize young people who work as peacemakers. The 2019 recipients are:

  • Annandale High School: Kora Corker
  • Cedar Lane School: Nick Price
  • Centreville High School: Deepika Joshi
  • Chantilly High School: Annie Wang
  • Edison High School: Reem Ali
  • Fairfax High School: Lara Demir
  • Hayfield Secondary School: Delina Kiflom
  • Herndon High School: Lydia Goff
  • Langley High School: Sumaiya Haque
  • Lee High School: Oscar Manuel Lopez Hernandez,
  • Madison High School: Hannan Mumtaz
  • Marshall High School: Luka Gabitsinashvili
  • McLean High School: Neha Rana
  • Mount Vernon High School: Burhan Ahmed
  • Mountain View High School: Romina Soleimani
  • Quander Road School: Lauren Haymes
  • South Lakes High School: Sophia Liao
  • Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology: Angie Sohn
  • West Potomac High School: Diana Argueta
  • West Springfield High School: Laura Kirk
  • Westfield High School: Makee Neves
  • Woodson High School: Xuan Huynh


U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) offered his congratulations to the winners of the 2019 Fairfax Student Peace Awards at their reception on March 10. “Standing up for peace takes courage and commitment.”

It’s not easy to be the peacemaker. Sometimes it is really hard, especially when you make those around you, even friends, angry when you speak out and stand up for what is right. And sometimes it can be dangerous. But in all instances, being the peacemaker “requires courage and commitment,” U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-11) told the crowd gathered at the Sherwood Community Center in Fairfax on Sunday, March 9.

Connolly, along with a host of sponsors, elected officials and a cheering collection of family and friends, had come together to honor the 23 young recipients of the 2019 Student Fairfax Peace Awards at a ceremony led by Margaret Fisher of program-founder Herndon Friends Meeting.

In addition to garnering kudos from the congressman, state Del. Ken Plum (D-36), Fairfax County Supervisor Penny Gross (Mason District), Scott Brabrand, Fairfax County Public Schools superintendent, and Karen Corbett Sanders, Mount Vernon District representative and vice chair of the FCPS board also officially offered their congratulations and admiration for the young activists.

Ryan McElveen and Ilryong Moon, members-at-large of the FCPS board, and Tamara Denerak Kaufax, FCPS board Lee District representative were also on hand to show their support.

THE EVENT’S KEYNOTE SPEAKER was David Swanson, an author, activist, journalist, radio host and co-founder and director of World Beyond War, a “global nonviolent movement to end war and establish a just and sustainable peace.”

Swanson, a 1987 graduate of Herndon High School who identifies as a “world citizen,” presented his argument of “no justification for war, ever,” while admitting that his remarks could make his audiences uncomfortable, but asserted that they were words that need to be said and a conversation that needs to happen.

The Fairfax Student Peace Awards started in 2006 as one school, Herndon High School, and one sponsor, the Herndon Friends Meeting, but has grown to 19 sponsors and is now offered to every public high school in Fairfax County, as well as two private schools.

The goal of the program is to encourage young people to think more about peace “both as a means and as an end” and to recognize their achievements when they turn those peace-making thoughts into actions in their schools, their communities, and even around the world.

The program is open to area high school juniors and seniors. In October, each school is invited to choose either an individual or a group recipient with the guidelines that the students have worked “specifically for peace or to identify and resolve conflicts … demonstrating commitment to peace by engaging in activities that strive to end conflict … seeking to bridge language, ethnic, racial, religious, gender, sexual orientation, or class differences … and/or assist to resolve conflicts among students or members of the community who feel isolated or alienated.”

THE WINNERS received certificates of achievement, a monetary gift and an additional $100 to be donated to any nonprofit organization of the student’s choice that operates in a spirit that is in keeping with the Peace Awards and this year, an autographed copy of the book, “Sweet Fruits From The Bitter Tree” by Mark Andreas, stories of “creative and compassionate ways out of conflict.”

Read more about the Peace Awards and the recipients at


Three local students from Alexandria were honored as recipients of the 2019 Peace Awards.

Diana Argueta is a senior at West Potomac High School who only came to this country in 2015 as an immigrant from El Salvador and learned English while navigating her high school classes.

She is a founding member and current president of the Hispanic Leadership Club, whose mission is to spread awareness of Hispanic cultures, empower Hispanic students to become leaders in their school and community, and to create events that bring diverse communities together.

She recruited volunteers to tutor local elementary school students in Spanish and to read to and mentor children who have just moved to the U.S. She led volunteers for a national day of service with Rebuilding Together, helping to assemble over 20 students to paint a kitchen for a shelter in Alexandria. She also organized food drives for hurricane victims and assists other students to understand requirements for graduation.

Lauren Haymes, senior at Quander Road School, is the president of Blossoming Beauties, an organization dedicated to helping girls grow into well-rounded and confident young women as they work together on school and community projects. The members engage in team-building activities that encourages them to recognize their commonalities, rather than their differences.

Mount Vernon High School Senior Burhan Ahmed has already been a three-time Presidential Volunteer Service Award winner, before adding the 2019 Fairfax Student Peace Awards honor to his achievements.

Having immigrated to the U.S when just 3-years-old, Burhan feels fortunate to be here and feels that peace in the world is achieved by being grateful and willing to sacrifice for the greater good.

He is one of the leaders of Stony Brook Junior Volunteers, which helps children from low-income families in the Stony Brook neighborhood. For the past three years, Burhan has run the athletics program and participated in creek and community park clean-ups, food drives, and toy collections. He feels it’s important to show children the joy of volunteering and says, “Peace and community go hand in hand.” Burhan has logged more than 400 hours of volunteer work.