Wednesday, June 14, 2023
At the start of Fairfax High’s graduation last Wednesday, June 7, Principal Georgina Aye acknowledged the 149 seniors who attained a 4.0 or higher GPA to become honor grads. But her message was for the whole class.
“You’ve shown us excellence, greatness, leadership, resilience and grit,” she said. Then, with a nod to the school mascot, she added, “Anyone can be motivated and inspired by lions, so roar for yourself and roar when you see injustice. And make sure you’re heard – I know you have it within you.”
In their four years at Fairfax, Aye told the students, “You’ve committed to building something better for yourself and you became unstoppable. You took challenges to the next level.” She then listed all the athletic championships and other notable achievements they’ve accomplished during their high-school career.
“This is Fairfax, this is the heart of a lion – this is your roar,” she said. “You are our future, and you can be whatever you want. I believe you will keep on winning and roar in all your do. Thank you for letting me lead you.”
The guest speaker – whose son was one of that day’s graduates – was Hakeem Oluseyi, an internationally acclaimed astrophysicist, cosmologist, inventor, educator, science communicator and author. He obtained both his master’s degree and Ph.D in physics from Stanford University, and his career has included being the Space Sciences education manager for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate.
An advocate for global education, Oluseyi holds 11 patents and has made his mark in academia and scientific research. His most well-known scientific contributions involve research on the transfer of mass and energy through the sun’s atmosphere, as well as the development of space-borne observatories for studying astrophysical plasmas and dark energy.
“Education is the pathway to achieve your dreams,” Oluseyi said. “Your challenge is to choose how you’re going to contribute to this great nation. And if you don’t stop, you’ll achieve your goals. I went into the Navy after high school, and there I learned algebra – which led me to become a scientist.” However, he noted, “We also need people to stay home and take care of their communities and families, as much as we need scholars.”
“America is made up of many different kinds of people, and we’re peaceful and prosperous,” continued Oluseyi. “Thirty years from now, you and your classmates will be the people of power and influence. But don’t forget all the people who educated and trained you, plus those who imparted their wisdom to you. Remember the importance of duty and honor, avoid tribalism – and live long and prosper.”
Next, Honor Grad speaker Kiara Fenn based her message on the children’s book, “The Tale of Despereaux,” about the adventures of a mouse named Despereaux on his quest to rescue a human princess from the rats. “When I was in fourth grade, I learned a lesson from him,” she said. “He was in darkness, but then he remembered to be brave. He said, ‘Once upon a time,’ and those words were the beginning to an inspirational story.”
Similarly, Fenn told her classmates, “Once upon a time, we were all freshmen, walking into school for the first time. Then we were sophomores – sitting in front of a computer at home during the pandemic – but we came out the other side. Then as juniors, people were asking us, ‘What are you going to do after high school?’ And now as seniors, we’re sitting here trying to answer that question.
Then Fairfax Mayor Catherine Read and City of Fairfax School Board Chairman Carolyn Pitches presented the Service, Faculty and Fairfax awards to three deserving seniors. Read described each recipient and Pitches handed out their awards.
Read said the Service Award winner, Isabella Jackson, “embodies positivity and spark. She played an integral part in the theater program and, as president of the Fairfax Players, she made sure others felt seen and heard. She most recently played the lead in the school’s production of ‘Sister Act’ and will be going to Ball State to major in musical theater.”
Giving the Faculty Award to Nico Ramallo, Read said, “As an officer of the Latino Student Association, he represented all students of color. He also increased school spirit and will continue his education at Virginia Tech.”
Regarding the recipient of the Fairfax Award, Read said Riya Menon was “captain of the women’s basketball team for three years, DECA president and is dedicated to making a difference in this world. She’ll be attending Cornell University.”
Next, Director of Student Services Jennifer Payne presented the Most Outstanding Senior award to Senior Class President Christopher Breslin. “It’s given to the student who best represents the Senior Class as a whole and shows real loyalty and dedication to the school,” said Payne. “And this person is selected by his or her classmates.”
Describing Breslin as “honest, caring, respected, responsible, a natural leader and a ray of sunshine,” she said he was a triathlete at Fairfax and captain of the cross-country team and has earned an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Then, before the diplomas were awarded, Breslin addressed his fellow seniors. “Whether we’re prepared to leave or not, here we are,” he said. “Today, we’re all Lions and are about to become Fairfax High School graduates. We’ve witnessed unrest in our nation, but let’s be an example of what diverse people can accomplish – we’ve learned our differences are our strengths.”