Sterling, VA (June 20, 2015) – When Pam Smith was given the assignment to give Park View’s 2015 commencement address, she knew exactly what she had to do.
“I did what all good teachers do: I made a lesson plan.”
Smith ended a 40-year career in education (virtually all of it in Loudoun County) with Park View’s graduation ceremony on Sunday, June 14th, at George Mason University’s Patriot Center. Smith began teaching family and consumer science at Loudoun Valley High School in 1977 before coming to Park View in 1979. She has been the Patriots’ school activity coordinator since 1991 and helped found Loudoun’s Teacher Cadet Program in 2002.
Following are some of the bits of wisdom Smith passed along in her final lesson.
She talked about the emotion that goes with watching her students graduate; something she’s done 37 times at Park View. “I take great pride in being in a profession that experiences that sense of accomplishment every year…
“Something that I like about today is that we are all equal. It’s an equal playing field. Everyone who walks across this stage can make choices on the path they take…No one is more superior; today everyone matters.”
Like the graduates, Smith said the ceremony marked a huge change for her.
“Nothing will ever be the same for us. Hopefully, it will be better, but it’s never going to be the same…While all of us will never again be Patriots at Park View, we will always be Patriots from Park View.”
Smith asked the audience to tell each other about someone they would like to emulate. Smith said she wanted to be like her high school home economics teacher, Mrs. Baker. Smith taught her first year of high school – which was Baker’s last – with her mentor. “I thought ‘I want to be just like her…’
“Last week, I saw a picture of Mrs. Baker out at a restaurant celebrating her 99th birthday and guess what? I want to be just like her.”
Other “Smith advice” was offered…
“As much as you think it does, money does not buy happiness. I almost wish you would realize this right now more than anything else in life. Yes, money can buy things to make life easier; but it’s people, not those things, that make us happy…”
“Take out those ear buds and put down those phones. Start talking to each other.”
Another notable retirement was marked Sunday. Technology resource teacher Beth Walker is retiring as the last original member of the Park View faculty.
Principal Kirk Dolson, completing his first year at Park View’s helm, repeated his favorite saying. “Seniors, I reminded you each day about making choices in your life. I’ll say it now and, if you want, you can say it with me, because this is the last time you will ever have to hear me say it, or hear it for that matter.” Dolson then said “You have a lot of choices to make today…”
And the graduates finished the thought “make great ones.”
Dolson said this saying hangs on his office wall because it is simple, yet enduring.
“You are here today because of the choices you have made. What you need to understand now, more than at any time in your life, is that the choices you make from this point forward can, and will, effect numerous lives beyond just your own…
“You have three choices to make in life and these are elementary decisions that all of us have to make. You can give up, you can give in or you can give it all you have and know that you have tried your best and can be proud of what you have accomplished. To me, the only choice is the (last) one.”
Valedictorian Jaquelin Martinez Chavarria gave her class’ farewell address. She used part of her talk to rebut those who have a negative image of her school.
“We know who we are: proud, bold, passionate, dedicated and spirited. The opinions of outsiders did not stop us from becoming leaders in the community and in the world. We didn’t have to prove it to anyone, we simply were.
“We took it all in, embraced it, learned from it, became resilient and carried on.”
She also spoke of her personal journey.
“When I came to the United States nine years ago…I was afraid to speak English in front of people. (Now) I am the valedictorian of my class and am able to speak in front of you all and give the last farewell.
“I know I am not the sole author of all my victories…I’ve done my part by studying, paying attention and going that extra mile at times. But I never could have done it without the right support system. I could have never done it without the love and support from my family, my friends, my two amazing principals –Mr. Dolson and Dr. Minshew – my church and, most importantly, God, who has given me the courage and strength to continue. I will never forget where I came from and who I once was.”
The Class of 2015 salutatorian was Justin Mooney.
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Terri Breeden quoted Walt Disney in her remarks. “All of our dreams may come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” She then offered a wish for the graduates. “May you have that courage throughout your entire life.”
There were 285 graduates in the Park View Class of 2015. Counseling Director Anthony Bauer presented facts about the graduates:
- They come from five continents, 22 countries and many of the 50 states.
- Graduating students came from Algeria, Belize, Bolivia, Canada, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Honduras, Iran, Kenya, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Thailand, Turkey, the United States and Viet Nam.
- 76 will be heading off to college.
- They will be attending college in 12 states: Florida, Idaho, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.
- 95 graduates will attend Northern Virginia Community College (NOVA). Of these students, approximately 90 participated in the Pathways program, which will allow them to attend NOVA for two years while preparing them to transfer to a four-year college or university.
- Members of the class who have enlisted in the military include Jennifer Alvarenga (Army), Keonna Byrd (Army), Lucas Greenwell (Army), Christian Lara-Garcia (Marine Corps), Sarah Vasquez-Tapia (Navy), Joanna Velasquez (Army) and Anders Struve (Air Force).
- The Class of 2015 received $1.9 million in financial assistance.
School Board member Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District) attended Park View’s graduation. Also attending were the Park View High School Cluster principals: Shontel Simon (Forest Grove Elementary); David Stewart (Guilford Elementary); Lottie Spurlock (Rolling Ridge Elementary); Jennifer Scott (Sterling Elementary) and Colleen O’Neill (Sully Elementary).