Mary Porter-Green, founder of The Curiosity Zone, told members of the Freedom High School Class of 2014 why they should always remain curious during her commencement address on June at George Mason University’s Patriot Center.
Porter-Green explained why she abandoned a career in law to start a company that challenges the way people think.
“I saw this chart and it bothered me. I think it should bother you too. What it said was, when you are 5, your creativity, your questions and your laughter are at an all-time high. But by the time you are about my age – the mid-40’s – you’re at an all-time low. At the time you should be the most productive in your life, your creativity and questions and your laughter are at an all-time low. They slide down and they don’t come back until you retire.”
Porter-Green told the graduates why they have to combat this disturbing trend.
“Curiosity makes you a better friend, it makes you a better sibling, it makes you a better kid, it makes a better grown-up because it helps you understand yourself and the others around you much better… The more curious you are, the better you will be in your relationships.
“The most important thing of all is curiosity helps you overcome obstacles… The number one predictor of success in life is not your GPA, it’s not your SAT scores, it’s not the university you’re going to; it’s your ability to overcome obstacles. The more curiosity you have, the better you’re going to be at overcoming those obstacles.”
Caitlin Rose Paul gave the valedictory address. She cited the compassionate nature of her class in her remarks.
“We have proven that we can come together to give aid to those in need. We are not the self-centered, sheltered teenagers that many outsiders stereotype us as. We know that we are blessed with what we have, so we give back when opportunities arise like we did on Senior Service Day.
“Our altruism makes me even more proud to call myself a member of this class than our many accolades and accomplishments.”
Hershel Holiday was the salutatorian. He spoke about the courageous nature of his classmates. “We bring our diverse backgrounds and talents together so vibrantly. We are unafraid of the risks that come from bringing our talents to the table. It will always be something to remember from this hard, yet rewarding, time.”
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Executive Director of Planning and Legislative Services Dr. Sam Adamo spoke on behalf of the school division. He asked the graduates to remember the people who helped them to this day and to honor their memory by extending their good works into the future.
“This accomplishment is not only about your hard work, your dedication, your commitment, but it’s the story of those people who helped you. In part, this is a day about those who selflessly gave their time and their effort to get you to this point. This obviously includes your friends and family, who have given you much guidance and assistance. As graduates, part of your goal will be keeping that circle of giving moving forward as you progress through life.”
“You have reached a milestone in your life,” Freedom Principal Doug Fulton told the graduates, “but instead of a milestone, see this as a mile marker. You are at a point, but just one point, in the many that will make up your life. The knowledge and skills you have acquired, the challenges you have faced, have shaped only a part of who you are. How you use that knowledge, those skills and how you respond to challenges from here on out will define you and define our county, the commonwealth, our country and our world.”
Fulton listed some of the accomplishments of the Class of 2014:
- The 399 members of the Freedom Class of 2014 earned a school-record $3.5 million in scholarships.
- A dozen Eagles were recognized by the National Merit Scholarship program.
- 53 of the graduates received activity letters for performing more than 100 hours of community service.
- In athletics, the Class of 2014 was a part of 33 district and conference championships, four regional champions, three region runner-ups and produced 11 All-State honorees.
- Twice the band was the USBands State Champion.
- The Freedom speech and debate team was the Virginia High School League District 5A champion in forensics.
- Four of the graduates were among the 28 guitarists selected for the All-Virginia Guitar Ensemble.
- Graduates placed third and fourth in the world at the international DECA competition.
- The Freedom orchestra earned superior ratings in district competition all four years the graduates were in high school.
- Three graduates will be joining the military.
Fulton also recognized four faculty members – Barbara Drumheller, Tom McIntyre, Tom Pasternak and Ken Wall – who are retiring this year.
The Freedom choirs and band performed “You Raise Me Up” with soloists Courtney Leipertz and Nathan McGraw.
School Board members Tom Reed (At-Large) and Jeff Morse (Dulles District) attended Freedom’s graduation. Morse’s son, Jonathan, was among the graduates.