Sterling, VA (June 29, 2015) – Potomac High School held its 2015 commencement exercises on Thursday, June 18th, in the school’s football stadium.
Principal Dr. Elizabeth Noto began by welcoming the families, friends, faculty and students to the ceremony. “Well, we did it again. For the second time in a row we are proud to be graduating outside in the (sort of) sunshine. And seniors, you made it. You’ve finally made it to the end of your high school years and the end of public education and on to your future. What a wonderful day.”
Potomac Falls High School business teacher Ryan Khatcheressian gave the address to the graduating seniors. He pointed out to the class that their first day of high school was also his first day at Potomac Falls as well as his first day as a teacher. “Like you, I was nervous. I was in the midst of a career change, unsure and excited about what was in store. I remembered asking myself that first day, ‘Did I make a mistake?’ The answer is absolutely, ‘No.’ I have never looked back.”
Khatcheressian went on to explain that this was the end of an extraordinary four years, but in many ways was only the beginning. Because of that, he was sure many of the graduates would have questions and would be uncertain of their futures. His main point was to believe in yourself.
Khatcheressian talked about his son and how much fun it was to drop him off at school and watch his smiles and excitement to see his classmates and teachers. He also shared that he worried that this would not always be the case. “My biggest fear is that he will change because someone told him he was not good”.
Khatcheressian grew up with that very same problem as he had trouble with reading in first grade. As a result, he was placed in the lowest reading group in class which crushed his self-confidence. “To this day I can recall the snickers and the name calling any time I would mispronounce a word or be really slow with my delivery. To me, this was my first encounter being defined as a failure.” The lack of confidence this caused followed him to high school, causing him to be quiet and try to stay low for fear of being ridiculed.
Khatcheressian, however, possessed a dream that required him to be the opposite. He wanted to be the star of musicals. “I wanted to prove that the quiet kid everyone had come to know actually had a voice and something to say.”
While he tried out for everything the school offered, he ended up letting his nerves get the best of him and was unable to perform come audition time and the laughs kept coming at him. Upon entering college, Khatcheressian’s dreams became even stronger. “I practiced every day and saw every show I could afford to see. I allowed myself to be criticized by my professors and my peers, which in turn made me stronger at my craft.”
After graduating from Virginia Tech, Khatcheressian found an ad from a reputable theater company in Arlington. He was determined to prove his cynics wrong to he went for an audition, but it ended up like all his previous efforts. He choked and went home.
Just before giving up for good on his dream he received a phone call from the theater asking him to meet with the director. At his meeting the director stared at him and asked what in the world was wrong with him. Knowing of his nervous condition she asked where he felt most comfortable singing. After replying in his car, she responded with, “Okay. You’re in your car…sing”. And he did, so well that he ended up with the leading role in the show.
“My hope for you is that you find that one thing that makes you whole and allow it to happen.
“Never, ever let yourself be labeled or defined. Believe me I have been stepped on, left out, picked on and put down. So far down that there were times I wanted to hide, stay in bed and never get out.
“If you haven’t started to believe in yourself the time is now. You cannot let fear stop you from doing the things you are passionate about and will make you amazing.
“Graduates, if you can take away one thing from this speech, remember that each one of you…is good.”
Loudoun County Public Schools (LCPS) Superintendent Dr. Eric Williams addressed the graduating seniors. “Members of the class of 2015, we gather to celebrate your accomplishments. As we reflect on your accomplishments, we also look forward to what’s next. What commences after high school.”
In addition to congratulations, Williams also had a challenge. To explain it, he likened his challenge to the recent superhero movie, “The Avengers: Age of Ultron.” In the film, the antagonist Ultron seeks to save the planet earth by destroying all of mankind. A team of heroes is then formed by government agent Nick Fury in order to stop the destruction. Williams explained that one of the main messages of the film is that contributions of everyone are needed to save the day. “Like Nick Fury, Dr. Noto has assembled a team of superheroes here in the faculty, staff and you, the class of 2015. You clearly have accomplished great things.
“Moving forward, you will seek out new teams to become a part of. It’s a safe bet to say you won’t be a part of a team fighting a world-dominating robot. You will, however, be part of teams that defend our country, maintain our economy and many of you will become perhaps the greatest superheroes of all…and that’s parents.”
Williams continued by using the spirit of the Avengers to emphasize that the students matter and each of them have talents that the world needs. “And that brings me to my challenge graduates. To use those unique skills and talents to make meaningful contributions to the world.”
Assistant Principal Jarvis Weeks recognized the top 10 academic students of the class of 2015. They included:
- Noah T. Black
- Tran P. Do
- Caroline L. Dorsey
- Neha Goswami
- Esther G. James
- Mina C. Kang
- Justin S. Martinez
- Neha Onteeru
- Caroline N. Ritchey
- Daliya A. Saadoon
Caroline L. Dorsey was announced as the salutatorian and Neha Goswami was named the class valedictorian.
School Board members Debbie Rose (Algonkian District) and Brenda Sheridan (Sterling District) attended the Potomac Falls graduation ceremony.