Leesburg, VA (June 27, 2015) – Loudoun County High School Principal Dr. Michelle L. Luttrell welcomed the audience of graduates, their families and friends to the commencement exercises for Loudoun County High School, held on Wednesday, June 17th, on the front lawn of the high school.
“I want you to know how honored and proud I am to have been your principal this year. You have made my first year at County and your final year of high school memorable. I have learned in my brief time with you, that you are a class that possesses creativity, confidence in self, a strong sense of purpose, service, spirit, athleticism, intellect and the courage to ask interesting questions of your leadership.
“You are amazing individuals and an outstanding group of young men and women. It is my hope that we have been able to help each of you achieve your goals, celebrate and appreciate your successes and inspire you to never settle or compromise the things and ideas you believe deeply in, for anyone or any situation.”
Luttrell then introduced a new tradition at Loudoun County High School, a student-led graduation ceremony.
Student Council Association (SCA) President Hayley Wright provided platform introductions and some remarks. “I hope the memories we have made in our four years will be treasured for the rest of our lives. I hope that we will take the knowledge and experience gained here and use it to make a difference in the world.
“I hope that we will be men and women of integrity, character and courage who are willing to work hard for our dreams and to stand up for what is right. I hope and pray that God will be with us all and that our lives will be one with purpose.”
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Services Dr. Kimberly Hough brought greetings on behalf of the district. “Already you have begun to develop leadership by serving others within your community. We encourage you to continue to serve others because it is by serving others that we grow and develop. Developing requires us to perform at the edge of our capabilities,” Hough said. “And when we do that we sometimes make mistakes. Here is some advice for you:
“Learn from your mistakes.
SCA Vice President Madison Batts provided a summary of Class of 2015’s achievements:
- $3 million in college scholarships earned.
- 107 seniors received an academic letter.
- 15 seniors received straight A’s.
- 247 enrolled in Advanced Placement (AP) classes this year.
- 88 percent of the senior class will attend a four-year or two-year college (21 percent will attend a two-year college, 67 percent a four-year college)
- Four members of the senior class will be entering the military.
- Three members will attend military service academies.
Kendrick Umstattd, the valedictorian for the Class of 2015, earned a 4.78 GPA and will attend Yale University in the fall. Umstattd thanked and recognized her fellow graduates.
“Today is a day to receive recognition for our hard work. Recognition is something we would all like to have…but it is not always received. There won’t always be recognition for your actions. As a result you should pursue projects with all of your heart not in a quest for recognition, but because they are worthy of recognition. Find worthwhile endeavors that can help your community, country and world and invest yourself completely in them. What truly measures the value of your work is its impact…not the amount of acclaim you receive.”
SCA Class Treasurer Matthew Simmons provided the Class Reflections Address. “Rather than traditionally speaking on how you can achieve your dreams,” Simmons began, “I’m going to take a different approach and speak about how you can help others achieve their dreams.”
Simmons then described the tragic journey of the Okelo family who lived in Central Africa. They were victims of local violence and fled their homes, wandering for weeks seeking safety. Transported to the United States by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) a family in Idaho decided to help the family of two parents and seven children. They assisted in getting them employment, obtaining food, clothing and donations.
“The community in Idaho has worked together to build a life for the Okelos and to help them achieve their wildest dreams,” Simmons explained. “My message today is this one; in a country as blessed as this one, ordinary people can change the lives of others in extraordinary ways.
“May we all approach our new lives with a new conviction…a conviction destined to help ourselves…a conviction destined to help others…a conviction destined to help change the world.”
Dannika Thompson, the Class of 2015 salutatorian, who earned a 4.66 grade point average (GPA) and will attend Columbia University in the fall, introduced the keynote speaker, M. Patricia Smith, the Solicitor General for the U.S. Department of Labor.
“Now more than ever the world seems to be changing…changing in ways and at a pace that was not imaginable when your parents graduated from high school. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts:
“Overall employment will double by 2022.
“Computer occupations will grow by 18 percent.
“Math occupations will grow by 26 percent.
“Fastest growth will be in the fields of health care, personal care and construction.
“Let’s reflect on what the world of work is likely to look like for your generation – ages 15-35 year olds (millennials, the biggest population in the workforce),” Smith said. Millennials look for different things in jobs, Smith added, revealing that:
“They care less about money…they care more about exciting work and comradery.
“They want to start their own businesses…and participate in the ‘gig’ economy.
“They are more likely to be free-lancers and change jobs more frequently.
“They bring their computer skills to the workplace.
“They are less resistant to change.
“They are less subject to value hierarchy.
“Education, while still important, is now overshadowed by skills training.
“So my advice is develop your skills and follow your passions,” Smith said. “That’s the true ticket to getting somewhere. Everyone is better off if what they are doing matches what their interests are. You work harder, you are more satisfied, and you are more successful.”
Smith then suggested six tips for the graduates’ consideration:
“Expand your comfort zone…cultivate an open mind and an open heart.
“Surround yourself with a community…a network of people who support you and will motivate you.
“Take risks – don’t be afraid to fail. The only real failure is the failure to try and the failure to learn from your experiences.
“Use adversity to your advantage.
“Persevere…you can always be the most hard-working.
“Live every day as if it was your last.”
Amanda Lee was the soloist in the singing of the National Anthem and the Loudoun County High School band and choir jointly performed “Bridge over Troubled Water”.
Loudoun County School Board At-Large member Thomas E. Reed and William D. Fox (Leesburg District) attended the Loudoun County High School graduation.