Legs of every folding chair were capped with tennis balls to protect the expensive Astroturf on the newly christened Phil Browning Field.

This was the first of many commencement ceremonies to be held at the impressive, new Fluvanna County High School campus.


Principal James Barlow welcomed students announcing that the class of 2013 had earned over $1.1 million in scholarships.  He also emphasized that a successful future is made of many small decisions.

“The second, the day, the hour has come.  The question is, are you ready?” said Barlow.  “Whether you graduate from college, join the military, go to work, get married and become a parent – whose decision is it?  Your parents?  Your teachers? No, it’s yours.”

Although she claims she dreads public speaking, Salutatorian Veronica Voronina gave a powerful and touching speech on what it means to be successful.

“I stand here because of a number, a GPA, nothing more, nothing less,” said Voronina.  “Does that make me successful?”

She described classmates who she considered to be just as successful.  One of which is Rowan Dell-deRonde, whose lifelong dream of being a part of the U.S. Space program will lead her to Purdue University next year, which has graduated 22 astronauts.  She mentioned other students who are living their lives according to their values – whether it be through being an agent of cheer in their communities, or putting friendships and relationships before monetary success.

“What will you leave when you go?” said Voronina.  “My road will be my road, your road will be your road.  But, you will never retrace your journey or relive your life.  Think of what you value most.  Remember, you only live once.”

YOLO, or ‘You only live once,” has become this generation’s short hand for the venerable Latin phrase ‘Carpe Diem.’  The phrase hits home for FCHS class of 2013, who lost two students during the course of their four years of high school.  Pinned onto graduation gowns were pink and blue ribbons remembering Colin Hampshire and Caitlin Conn.

“It speaks volumes to look at you and see the pink and blue ribbons,” said Superintendent Gena Keller.  “You have heart.”

Valedictorian Rachelle Rene Scott also mentioned her father during her speech, who was killed after falling off a roof last year.

“I debated reflecting on the past, but so many people do that,” said Scott.  “Today is about the future.  We’re leaving behind our childhood and finally entering the real world.”

The theme of losing a loved one carried over into the music selections.  In place of Bill Withers’ “Lean on Me” the choir decided to sing Mariah Carey’s “One Sweet Day” instead, which features the lyrics, “And I know you’re shining down on me from heaven, like so many friends we’ve lost along the way.”

Each year the senior class votes on the recipients of the Superintendent’s Award, which are given to two teachers and one student who are outstanding community members and epitomize Fluco pride.  This year’s “Outstanding Faculty Member” was Janice Grandstaff, who has taught for 43 years.  The award for community service was presenting to George Vest, a school bus driver who also volunteers with the local rescue squad.  “Outstanding Student for 2013” was awarded to Alyce Brotherton.

Finally, degrees were awarded, and as the last name – Justin Todd Zimmerman – was called, a whoop went up from the crowd and so did the graduation caps.


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