South Riding, VA (June 26, 2015) – Freedom High School Principal Douglas B. Fulton welcomed the audience of graduates, their families and friends to the ninth Commencement Exercises for Freedom High School, held on Tuesday, June 16th, in George Mason University’s Patriot Center.
“We have an entire community vested in our success and our futures, who have helped get us to this point,” salutatorian Joseph Yong Jin Kim told his fellow graduates. “Most people in this world will never have the chance to even pursue an education to such a degree and with so much support (that) so many of us take for granted; all of these good things that are only available because of the investments made by our community.”
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams spoke on behalf of the school division. “Members of the Class of 2015, we gather tonight to celebrate your accomplishments. As we reflect on your accomplishments, we look forward to what is next, to what commences as you leave high school. So, in addition to congratulating you, I challenge you.
“To explain my challenge, I’ll refer to a popular movie, ‘The Avengers: Age of Ultron.’ For those of you who are not familiar with the Avenger movies, they feature the stars of Marvel Comics – Iron man, Captain America, the Hulk and others. Although I’ll share a little about the plot, I promise not to give any spoilers.
“One primary message of the movie is that the contributions of everyone are needed to save the day. (Graduates) you will be part of teams that defend our country, maintain our economy and protect our environment. Most of you will become the greatest superheroes of all, parents.
“And that brings me to my challenge for you, graduates, to use your unique skills and talents to make meaningful contributions to the world.” Dr. Williams explained the idea of the Avengers to the graduates, “The idea is to bring together a group of remarkable people so when needed they can fight the necessary battles.
“So, graduating seniors, you are the ‘remarkable people’ that my generation has brought together. We need you to develop your talents to their fullest and today marks just one step – albeit a very important one, in reaching the extraordinary potential that lies in each one of you.
“Graduates, I conclude by putting it briefly; congratulations, be remarkable.”
Matthew Scott Ribel began his student address by speaking to the parents of the graduates. “I’d like to congratulate you…not because you have done a good job or anything…but because you’re done, with them. As I pondered what I would say today,” he continued, “I wondered what kind of wisdom can a kid who can’t even do his own laundry impart?
“Despite our earlier questionable reputation, the Class of 2015 consists of NCAA-bound athletes, students who are winning scholarships that no other Freedom student has before, All-State musicians, firefighters, EMT’s, award-winning actors and actresses…(we’re) not just spoiled suburban riff-raff.”
Valedictorian Shannon Renee Menezes introduced the ceremony’s commencement speaker, Dr. Neal D. Kravitz of Kravitz Orthodontics.
Kravitz told the graduates that while flying last week he spotted an Eagle outside of his window that continued to increase altitude alongside his plane. “I believe your success tomorrow will come down to your ability to apply core values,” he said. “We will entitle your final lecture of high school, ‘Becoming an Eagle.’ ”
Kravitz gave the following advice:
“Commit yourself to helping people. The journey is more enjoyable, the destination at the end is more meaningful if you help people along the way.
“Participate…this is life…show up…attend…say ‘Yes.’
“Take action in the presence of danger. If you fail to act in the presence of danger, you become a participant.
“Persevere…tomorrow is another day. The days are long, but the years are short. Never give up.
“Act with integrity. When given a choice, choose for the whole, not for the few.
“Today you graduate as Eagles, and it’s the Eagle that flies at the highest altitude.”
The senior class officers presented the 2015 Freedom Eagle Award to Charlene Jones, founder of the Dulles South Food Pantry, which feeds more than 685 people in need.
Shannon Renee Menezes delivered the valedictory address through her poetry.
“Thus, the one little note I want you to take from my speech;
“Is to grace yourself, understand, aspire and reach;
“Reach for your goals and reach for what you love;
“Soar like an Eagle and achieve high above.”
“Class of 2015, I want to recognize you as a group,” Fulton told the graduates, “I want to thank you for an incredible and interesting four years, of which I had the pleasure of being with you for three.”
Fulton listed some of the accomplishments of the Class of 2015:
- Three graduates were recognized as National Merit Scholar finalists; one for National Merit Achievement and three received National Merit scholarships.
- Three graduates attended the Governor’s School.
- Three graduates achieved perfect scores on the reading SAT and three on the math SAT.
- The senior class accumulated six Cappie nominations during their four-year career.
- Freedom Speech and Debate is the VHSL State District 5A champion in forensics.
- The Class of 2015 completed more than 13,000 hours of community service. One graduate completed more than 600 hours of service.
- The Class of 2015 received more than $2 million in college scholarships.
Fulton also recognized faculty member Elisa Carter, who will retire this year.
The Freedom choir and band performed “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. The band is under the direction of Joel Galway and the choral director is Andrew McGinley.
Loudoun County School Board member Jeff Morse (Dulles District) attended Freedom’s graduation.