Grad Speaker Shares Her Personal Challenges

Grad Speaker Shares Her Personal Challenges

Calls Mountain View ‘a safe environment where I could thrive.’

Anabelle McAllister receives the Faculty Award from Leslie Chekin.

Anabelle McAllister receives the Faculty Award from Leslie Chekin.

During each Mountain View graduation, one or more students share their personal stories of the obstacles they’ve overcome en route to obtaining a diploma. Last week, class Valedictorian Anabelle McAllister of Centreville told hers.

“Today I’m filled with mixed emotions – joy, gratitude and a profound sense of accomplishment,” she said. “But behind this moment of triumph lies a journey marked by struggle. For years, I battled with extreme anxiety surrounding school. The mere thought of stepping into a classroom filled me with dread.

“The weight of academic pressure felt suffocating. There were days when I questioned whether I’d ever make it to this moment and walk across the stage as a graduate. But then amidst the darkness came a beacon of light – Mountain View High School. From the moment I arrived, I knew this place was different. The staff greeted me with warmth and compassion, and my peers welcomed me with open arms.”

Within the school’s walls, said McAllister, she found a safe haven – a place where her struggles were met with understanding and support. She’d felt uneasy at her previous schools. But at Mountain View, she said, “I had a community rallying behind me. My family, friends and especially the school staff never gave up on me. They believed in me when I couldn’t believe in myself – and for that, I’m eternally grateful.”

She said this school not only gave her an education but also instilled in her a newfound respect and love for learning. “It was here that I discovered the power of a supportive community and the importance of mental wellbeing,” said McAllister. “Thanks to the unwavering support of this school, I stand before you today as a graduate – a feat I once thought impossible.”

She said looking ahead to the next chapter of her life fills her with hope and excitement. She wants to someday become an elementary-school teacher and has been accepted to Longwood University to continue her education.

Voice breaking as tears filled her eyes, McAllister said, “To my family, friends and the incredible staff at Mountain View, I owe you more than words can express. Thank you for believing in me and lifting me up when I needed it the most – and for being a safe and welcoming environment where I could thrive.”

She then urged her fellow grads to remember the power of community. “We’ve proven we can overcome even the greatest of challenges when we have the right support system by our side,” said McAllister. “Congratulations, Class of 2024 – our futures are bright. I have no doubt that each and every one of us will go on to achieve great things. Thank you, Mountain View, for shaping me into the person I am today and for preparing me for the journey ahead. We did it!”

Afterward, Assistant Principal Kim Witeck told attendees that stories like McAllister’s are “what drives the Mountain View staff to come to school every day and work so hard for the students.” Then special awards, voted on by the faculty, were given to two of the graduating seniors.

* The Personal Achievement Award recognizes a student who’s succeeded both academically and personally, despite having to deal with other adult commitments. ESOL teacher Lora Bates presented this honor to Mohamed Dieye.

* The Faculty Award for Excellence goes to the student achieving the greatest academic and personal success, despite significant obstacles. ESOL teacher Leslie Chekin presented it to McAllister.

Chekin said McAllister embodies Mountain View’s motto of Family, Love and Respect. “She’s a communicator, a creative and critical thinker, is ethical, goal-oriented and tremendously resilient,” explained Chekin. 

“She excels in many subjects, and one of her teachers wrote, ‘I don’t know how she does so well with all she has to cope with,’” said Chekin. “Her graciousness and respectfulness will be remembered by all her teachers. Anabelle, we’re proud to have had you as a student at Mountain View.”