Today Viva Loudoun kicks off an 18-part Graduation 2013 series with a detailed look at the graduations at all the Loudoun County Public Schools high schools and programs.
Ashburn (June 28, 2013) – “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” author Jeff Kinney was the commencement speaker (his niece was among the graduates) at the Briar Woods High School graduation on Monday, June 10, at George Mason University’s Patriot Center.
Kinney said people know who he is, but not always because he’s a famous author. One such instance came when a Boy Scout approached him after a food drive in his hometown of Plainville, Mass.
“This one kid walked right up to me, looked me in the eye and goes ‘You’re Jeff Kinney!’ And I said ‘Well, yes I am’ and I started patting myself down for a pen to sign something. And he goes ‘You didn’t leave any canned food on your front porch!’”
Another boy asked Kinney what his name was. Kinney replied “Mr. Kinney.” The boy thought about this for a moment, then asked Kinney his first name, to which Kinney replied “Jeff.” The boy thought again.
“You have the same name as the guy who wrote those books… Plainville keeps me very humble.” Kinney cited Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers” as containing a formula for success.
“There are sort of two categories that make you successful. One is the opportunity; we can’t always control the opportunity. Some people get lucky and some people don’t.
“But the other is what he calls ‘The 10,000-hour rule.’ (Gladwell) posits that for anybody to become an expert at anything, they need 10,000 hours – or roughly 10 years – (of experience). For me, it took about eight years to master the art of cartooning, so I can relate to that.” To these assertions, Kinney added some wisdom of his own.
“What I’ve learned is that anything worth having is worth working for and if you put in the time, you’ll be ready when you have the opportunity. I’ve also learned that you need to be flexible. Sometimes the opportunity you get isn’t the one you’re chasing. I say this as a person who wanted to be a newspaper cartoonist but ended up as a children’s author.
“The world is changing really fast – a little too fast for me. Technology is really changing, but what I’ve found is I take heart in the fact that there will always be a need for good content. For me, it’s storytelling. “No matter what the format, no matter what the technology there’s always going to be a need for good writing. So what I want to encourage you to do is seize the opportunity that you have and create something great for the world and add something special.”
Briar Woods Principal Ed Starzenski paid the faculty a rare compliment after running through its long list of the school’s accomplishments. “I’ve been a high school principal for 29 years… and I don’t know if I’ve ever come across a better-qualified staff than we have at Briar Woods High School.” Starzenski also was effusive in his praise of the graduates.
“You’ve made your parents, your staff, your friends and the entire Briar Woods community proud for everything you’ve done for us and yourselves for the past four years. I have to tell you… this is the most accomplished class I’ve ever come across. You’ve had more accolades and achievements than anyone I’ve seen. I want you to know it has been my pleasure to serve as your principal for the past four years. Thank you for all the memories.” By the end of the graduation ceremony, Starzenski was the “King of Bling.” As the graduates accepted their diploma, they placed strands of metallic blue or orange beads around Starzenski’s neck, creating a massive, heavy collar. (Starzenski also labored through the ceremony with a severe left knee injury for which he underwent surgery the following day.)
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Edgar B. Hatrick III also spoke about the record of achievement Briar Woods had compiled in a relatively short time. “It was just eight short years ago that Briar Woods High School opened its doors for the first time to its students. For half of the life of your school, you have been part of that school…I thought about the remarkable place your school has taken in the community in those eight short years.
“The catalog of achievements by you, by those who came before you, by faculty and staff, your dedication to others in the community in times of need are all setting records. It speaks very well of you who are the Class of 2013 that half of that history has been written on your watch.”
The Briar Wood’s Class of 2013 had 453 graduates, 372 of whom received an Advanced Studies Diploma. 45 graduated with a grade point average (GPA) of 4.3 or better, an average grade of A-plus. The Class of 2013 earned $4.9 million in scholarships and grants.
Rmaah Memon was the valedictorian for the Class of 2013 with a 4.7 GPA.
“Today is a day to look back and think about what we are leaving behind at Briar Woods. But why are we really here?” Memon asked in her valedictory address.
“It’s been a long four years, yet as Aristotle once said ‘The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.’ Whether we slaved away in the drama department getting ready for the upcoming show; studied late at night for tests the next day; or stayed late after school to practice, we all have something to be proud of. Something that has made our accomplishments that much more significant…
“Some think high school is the best years of your life. I, however, believe the opposite to be true. We have so much more to look forward to and rather than dwell on the past, we should carry forward the cherished memories that Briar Woods has given us.”
Jessica Joyce and Michael Kochubeevsky were the co-salutatorians.
School Board Chairman Eric Hornberger and members Tom Reed (At-Large), Kevin Kuesters (Broad Run District) and Jeff Morse (Dulles District) attended the Briar Woods graduation ceremony.
Viva Loudoun Graduation 2013 Series
Today: Briar Woods
Tomorrow: Broad Run
Article and photo courtesy Loudoun County Public Schools