Before Mountain View High’s winter graduation last week, Assistant Principal Kim Witeck addressed the students before they headed out into the world. She was speaking from the podium inside Centreville High’s auditorium Monday, Feb. 6.
“As you graduate today, you have many feelings, including pride, excitement, relief and, perhaps, even a bit of sadness,” she said. “But you share the common traits possessed by all Mountain View graduates – perseverance, grit, intelligence and drive. You’re also resilient and strong.”
Witeck then thanked all the parents, Mountain View teachers and staff, plus supportive community members who helped them reach this point. Following her, Acting Principal Catherine Stone acknowledged the Mountain View Foundation, which provides scholarship money for the grads, praising them for their “unwavering support of this school.”
“Graduation is a momentous occasion,” she said. “When I was a little girl, my aunt gave me a set of books about values such as determination, kindness, humor and respect. The stories were told through the eyes of important people throughout history, and I loved them.”
For example, said Stone, French scientist Louis Pasteur strongly believed that bacteria, or germs, existed and could cause diseases. He wanted to cure rabies; but since no one could see the virus that caused it, no one believed him about it. However, she said, “After working hard and believing in himself, he found a cure for rabies and saved a little boy’s life.”
Likewise, she told the grads, “When you came to Mountain View, you might not have believed in yourself. You had several challenges, but you learned to set goals, be resilient and use your challenges as learning.
“But sometimes, pause and take a breath. Your family and the community you built here will always be here for you. It’s important to give love and respect – you get what you give. You’re important, valued and deserve success, and we want to help you continue on your journey. We’ll always be here for you. Congratulations on your graduation – your Mountain View family is proud of you.”
Next came the two student speakers, beginning with Jorge “Ricky” Reyes. One of six children, he was born in El Salvador but left his home at age 16. “I felt sad because it wasn’t easy to leave my parents and go far away,” he said. “But I was also happy because I would see my brother Jose again in the U.S.”
However, high school was difficult for him. “Everything was in a different language, and I didn’t even know how to ask for help,” said Reyes. “All I could say was, ‘I don’t know.’”
So he decided to change schools and come to Mountain View. “It gave me my first taste of leadership as head of the student council,” he said. “Mountain View showed us it’s not necessary to be the biggest and most well-known [student] in school, but to value family, love and respect [the school’s motto].”
Reyes then thanked his Mountain View teachers and staff for all their time and support, as well as his friends, parents, brother Jose and “my little brother Roberto who’ll stand here someday. It’s an honor for me to say, with great pride, ‘I’m finally graduating from Mountain View High School.’”
The second student speaker was Mariana Andreu. A self-described Army brat, she and her family moved from North Carolina to Colorado to California to Virginia. “I transferred to Mountain View in the middle of my junior year and got COVID for my 17th birthday,” she said. “Then my mom suddenly passed, but I know she’s watching over me and cheering for me as I graduate today.”
Planning to attend Appalachian State University in North Carolina to study interior design, she said she’ll be “ready to roll with the punches. My new direction is both exciting and scary.”
Andreu thanked her mom for her support, plus her dad, “who’d get up early and tutor me. I’m proud to be your daughter.” Also expressing gratitude toward her friends and family at Mountain View, she said, “To every grad here tonight, we did it – we made it to graduation.”
Special awards were then given to two students chosen by the teachers.
* The Citizenship Award is presented to a student who’s helped build a positive school community. Giving it to Andreu, English teacher Tim McElroy said, “Her patience and kindness make everywhere she goes better.”
* The Personal Achievement Award goes to a student who succeeded academically and personally, despite having adult responsibilities, such as a job or a child. This honor, presented by special-education teacher Molly Flatley, went to Adelina Hernandez.
“The 2021 Adelina was shy and unsure of her place, and obstacles made her retreat inward,” explained Flatley. “But the 2023 Adelina is an excellent example of resilience. When she needed help, she asked for it, and she knows how to push through adversity. Now, she’s going to NOVA to pursue a career in physical therapy.”
Next came the awarding of diplomas, the tossing of caps into the air and the celebrating with family and friends, as Mountain View’s winter graduation became history.