Hats Off to Fairfax High School’s Class of 2024

Hats Off to Fairfax High School’s Class of 2024

‘Try something new and savor every moment.’

Graduates toss their caps into the air after the ceremony.

Graduates toss their caps into the air after the ceremony.

Fairfax High’s football stadium erupted in cheers last Tuesday, June 4, as Camille Zona’s name was called. Of course, those attending the school’s graduation were happy she was receiving her diploma – but they were also overjoyed that it meant the ceremony was almost done and soon every senior on the field would be a graduate.

First, though, came all the pomp and circumstance merited by such a special occasion. Principal Georgina Aye welcomed the crowd and shared some advice with the throng of seniors sitting before her in their bright blue caps and gowns.

“Your journey here wasn’t traditional,” she said. “Because of a pandemic, you spent your freshman year separated from your classmates and attending school on a Zoom screen. But you still connected with each other. And from the first minute you entered the school, you roared, like the Fairfax Lions you are.”

Although the world has changed in many ways since then – especially in the realm of technology – Aye told the students to stay true to themselves and their humanity. “The world is full of possibilities, but AI can’t replace the human spirit or the bonds of friendship,” she said. 

“You are the new leaders who’ll push the boundaries of what’s possible,” continued Aye. 

Flanking grad Justin Lindo are (from left) brothers David and Michael, dad Rick, mom Ellen and aunt Cindy Shen. 


“The world needs your fire, passion and creativity. Always stay connected and roar. Once a Lion, always a Lion.”

Senior Amira Bouhsane then introduced the faculty speaker, English teacher David Friedman. “He’s made a significant impact on our lives,” she said. “He’s taught us resilience, integrity and the importance of lifelong learning.”

“During the pandemic, you showed up for class on your computers,” he said. “But we navigated the uncertainty together. This time, you’ll emerge into uncertainty again, as postgraduates. You’ll not be able to control the people in your life. But you can be present, participating and producing.”

“You’re the most important thing in your life – don’t lose yourself,” said Friedman. “Make time for yourself and your interests and put yourself first. Take risks, push yourself out of your comfort zone. And when you need it, ask for help; it’s the intelligent thing to do.”

He also advised the grads to not go it alone but, instead, find a partner to help them. Furthermore, he added, “Life is messy; expect things to go awry. But embrace it and forgive yourself. Focus on the little things you can control. And focus on growth, not results. Your only competition is yourself. I look forward to seeing you grow. You can be proud of where you are – but you can’t stay there.”

Next came the honor graduate address by Yashavi Upasani. “The most complicated and strange four years of your life is over,” she said. “Now all that’s left is the future. Over the three years we were physically in school, we learned to fight for our classmates and ourselves and to prioritize ourselves and our friends. And we were able to clearly and deeply appreciate the little moments.

“We went through many changes, and they all bonded us together. We encouraged the idea of community, and we committed ourselves to this school and each other. And I’m so incredibly proud of you all. You’re high-achievers and goal-reachers; and soon, you’ll also be grads.”

“Go out and be part of the crowd,” continued Upasani. “Take every opportunity that comes your way. Try something new and savor every moment. You survived high school – you can survive anything. Congratulations, Class of 2024 – we did it!”

Afterward, Fairfax City Mayor Catherine Read and School Board Chairman Carolyn Pitches presented the school’s Service, Faculty and Fairfax awards. 

* Vaishnavi Mahimaluru received the Service Award for her dedication to the school. “She is the embodiment of determination, a well-respected member of the varsity softball team and, as class president, she’s volunteered many hours of service to her school and community. The annual cultural celebration – one of the school’s marquee events – wouldn’t have happened without her tireless efforts.” She will attend GMU.

* Presenting the Faculty Award to Owen Korzak, Read said he “embodies the heart” of Fairfax High. “He’s passionate, driven and equally respected by students and faculty,” she continued. “His concern for the environment led him to collect over 20,000 items of glass to recycle and start the first glass-recycling club at FHS. He was a triathlete – participating in cross country, swim-and-dive, and outdoor track and field. And he’s been a mentor to many underclassmen.” He’ll be attending the University of Maryland.

* The Fairfax Award was given to Amira Bouhsane. “She embodies all the qualities of a student leader,” said Read. “She’s mature, collaborative and creative and has the unique ability to manage her peers with a calm and steady hand. She’s served admirably as the student representative to the City of Fairfax Schools Superintendent’s advisory committee and as an SGA officer. 

“As a member of the student leadership for four years, she’s devoted countless hours. But her legacy at Fairfax is the creation of Pyramid Night, bringing elementary and middle-school students to FHS for a night of fun and community building.” She, too, will attend GMU.

* David Cheng received the Most Outstanding Senior award from Director of Student Services Ashley Anderson. It’s given to the person who best represents the Senior Class as a whole. In describing him, Anderson said, “He’s adaptable, disciplined and responsible, doesn’t back down from a challenge and works well with others to accomplish a goal. 

“He’s an excellent role model for his peers and holds himself to the highest academic standards. He made significant contributions to the Science Olympiad team and founded the Cyber Patriot Club at FHS, expanding it to 40 competitors. And he claimed District and Regional Champion titles in the 55-meter dash.” He’ll be attending the University of Pennsylvania.

Then, prior to the presentation of the diplomas, Mahimaluru addressed her classmates. “Many of us yearn for perfection, trying to be the best we can be at all times,” she said. “And we’re hard on ourselves when things don’t go right. But life happens – we go into situations we can’t control. But give yourself grace. Do unto yourself as you do unto others. Understand, accept and forgive yourself. 

“We’re all imperfect beings, but we all work hard and strive for what is right. Today, let’s take some time and pat ourselves on the back. Be proud. As we go our separate ways, let’s carry the lessons we’ve learned throughout high school. In the words of [singer] Natasha Beddingfield, ‘Today is where your book begins; the rest is still unwritten.’ You’ll always have friends from Fairfax High, so this isn’t goodbye, it’s see you later.”