This is the third part of a Viva Loudoun 18-part Graduation 2013 series with a detailed look at the graduations at all the Loudoun County Public Schools high schools and programs.
(June 30, 2013) – “Today we celebrate the accomplishments of 297 Titans,” said Dominion High School Principal Dr. John Brewer as he welcomed the family and friends of the Class of 2013 to the school’s graduation ceremony. “For the past four years, these young men and women have grown to exemplify our mission to promote the success of every Titan.
“You have demonstrated over the past four years that you intend to lead lives of extraordinary significance beyond the halls of Titan Territory. Class of 2013 you’ve accrued some extraordinary achievements…you have earned over $2.2 million in scholarships and grants and 14 of you have earned inclusion in the Titan Wall of Fame.
“Class of 2013…you are an extraordinary collection of unique individuals…you’re fun to be around…we can trust you…you embody what it means to be truly Titan more than any previous class in my opinion. Your achievements in the past four years are indeed impressive, but they will soon be overshadowed by the accomplishments in the approaching seasons of your life. Please remember that your greatest achievements within the context of an extraordinary life are almost always found in selfless service on behalf of others who are more vulnerable than you. Titans in the Class of 2013, this is your day…may you lead a life of extraordinary significance.”
“Following your graduation celebrations, you will soon move forward into what comes next in the life journey that is uniquely yours,” said Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Deputy Superintendent Ned Waterhouse. “Entering adulthood in this day and time will pose for each of you both challenges and opportunities. You will encounter an adult world that places tremendous emphasis on measurable achievement and on the goal of attaining material wealth. These things can divert and distract you from the fundamental core values and the lasting riches that accrue from the deep relationships with others.
“Most of you have heard the expression, life is what you make it…not withstanding that point of view…I will bet that the vast majority of you here today have already been thrown a few curves by life…and you’ve learned that even your best efforts and most sincere hopes don’t always produce the results that you intended or expected. Life doesn’t always follow a predictable path and it is not always fair.
“On the other hand you may have heard that attitude is everything…and the way you choose to react can have a profound effect on what happens next. The one thing we can control in our lives is our personal choices. We create meaning and define our lives through the choices we make for ourselves. I submit to you that your life will be created in a million moments…in the smaller choices that you will make day in and day out.
“You will usually make good choices in this life if you know yourself well…remain true to what you value and believe and look for the best both in yourself and in others.”
Salutatorian for the Class of 2013 Alyssa Wenzel, who will attend Johns Hopkins University in the fall, then introduced the student speaker, Eric Dotterer.
“It still hasn’t hit me that this is the last time we’ll all be together and I’ll miss seeing you five times a week for the rest of my life,” said Dotterer. “I will remember the memories from this graduating class forever. You guys are talented, imaginative, teachable, accepting, noteworthy and smart; the adjectives I used spell out TITANS. We of the Class of 2013 are all Titans because we have achieved greatness at Dominion High School and we will continue to achieve great things in the future. While we all may have come from different places…and we will all be going our separate ways in life…we can all look back to the past and say that we were…we are…and we always will be Titans.”
Dominion High School science teacher Denise Wingfield recognized the three recipients of the Dominion High School faculty scholarships: Martha Diaz Sosa, Sudana Wangsiriwatana and Manel Zitoun.
Wingfield told the audience in the Dominion gym that the staff raised $600 in one day to award an additional scholarship to a deserving student.
Continuing a Titan tradition, Maura Mazurowski was selected to deliver the Titan Triumph address. In doing so, she joined a number of her fellow classmates who overcame long odds to achieve success. “(She) garnered a 4.17 while overcoming her own odds on her pathway to a life of extraordinary significance,” said Brewer in her introduction.
“When I think about life, I like to think about it as a story still being written,” said Mazurowski. “Whenever I face a setback, no matter how minor or major it may be, I always think… (as in literature) that’s what is supposed to happen to the main character. They are supposed to struggle to find greatness, because eventually what they have been through is what makes them so great.”
Mazurowski described for the audience the trauma of her family’s eviction from their home a year ago. “We no longer had a house and we had nowhere to go. I spent last summer in one room with my two sisters in the basement of my uncle’s home. My parents were staying 30 minutes away with my grandmother…and any opportunity to see them happened less and less.
“I maintained a false appearance and smiled through it all. It is now one year later and we still do not have a home. Over that year we have been shuttled from hotels and friends’ houses…never quite sure where we would sleep that night.
“If I have learned anything this past year…it is that so much in a person’s life often goes unseen. Most of what I have shared today even my closest friends have never been told.
“This year, I have learned that trying to hide your challenges does not help…doing everything you can to find happiness in all the other aspects of your life does. For me, my happiness this year was found through my amazing and trustworthy friends. Even though I never specifically told them what I had been going through this year, they were still always there for me.
“So as our story together ends…I have two words for you that I myself needed to think of multiple times…and that is…to ‘be bold.’ Be bold Class of 2013…with every big change and new experience coming in the next years. Always remember no story is perfect…and neither is life….but in a way that’s what makes it so worth living.”
Lara Armstrong, valedictorian for the Class of 2013, then took the stage. Armstrong earned a cumulative GPA of 4.60, scored three perfect scores on the SAT and is a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist.
“I think that we (Americans) are obsessed with happy endings,” said Armstrong as she began her address. “Chaos is frightening because it reminds us that the real universe has no rules. But, the ending doesn’t matter so much as the journey. When we singularly focus on the future…we lose our awareness and appreciation of the present. Relationships and experiences become mere vehicles for getting us from here to a bright, shinier there. But, we can never count on the future… all we have is the present.
“To exist in this universe, against all odds with the power to do, achieve and inspire is a gift we would be foolish to waste. Whether you and I decide to realize this potential will dictate our fates. By living day-to-day, at least metaphorically…you are on the right track to accomplishing this.”
“Here’s the deal folks,” said Social Sciences Chair Steve Hicks as he delivered the faculty address. “You will experience a series of life-changing events. Some you expect…a 16th birthday, graduation and some you don’t. Many of life’s seminal moments are unexpected and you need to be ready for them.
“Remember true friends are the ones who have unconditional regard…the folks who accept your faults and all.
“I guarantee you that your opportunities in life will expand exponentially if you remember how you and so many classmates acted courteously toward others. Sometime you just need to take a moment to ensure you are treating others with respect.
“Work hard. If you work hard and don’t procrastinate, you won’t miss life’s key moments because the work will be out of the way so you can take the time to experience those expected and unexpected key moments in life. “Try activities outside of your comfort zone. If it takes you a while to get good at it, good. Life is about failing so you learn to succeed.
“It has been my pleasure to watch so many of you find your passions over these four years. Ear muffs on for this part, parents. Please don’t let the search for the almighty dollar stop you. Money is nice, but doing what you are passionate about is far more important. Some of the unhappiest people I have ever met are insanely rich and some of the happiest people don’t have much. Additionally, don’t let others dictate what our passions are.
“Finally…you guys have fun and laugh. If you ever hit a rough spot in life…think back to all those entertaining times in high school when you laughed…and think of the people who made those moments possible. In our darkest moments those that can find humor even their own faults will be far more successful and happy than those who choose to wallow in self-pity.
“I know you will undertake great missions in life because so many are already living a life of significance. I count myself incredibly lucky to have gotten to know so many of you. Again my advice to you is, life is going to go by quicker than you expect, be ready for it because it’s a heck of a great adventure.”
In attendance at the Dominion graduation ceremony was Loudoun School Board member Debbie K. Rose (Algonkian District).
Article and photo courtesy Loudoun County Public Schools