May 1 was "D-Day" for high-school seniors.
College-bound seniors were supposed to finalize their undergraduate decision by the first of this month. More than 65 percent of seniors at Herndon High School are expected to enroll in a four-year college beginning this fall, said Linda Boyke, the school's college and career counselor. "This class has just had enormous success over the last four years," principal Janice Leslie said. "We’ve had enormously successful students — very, very solid academicians."
From Columbia to Cornell and Yale to MIT, members of the Herndon High class of 2003 are heading off to impressive institutions of higher learning, Leslie said. Leslie said this class’ talent in the arts and sports has been remarkable. Citing Patrick Elliot’s fancy footwork on the step team, Laura Dunlap and Ashleigh Sullivan’s "beautiful" voices, the "wonderful music" of the student jazz group Train Wreck, and "of course, Jordan Short’s three pointer right before the half at Robinson in the playoffs."
For Katie Smith, senior class president, the last four years at Herndon have provided a "ton of great memories, especially the football games."
UNLIKE OTHER CLASSES in recent years, the class of 2003 has experienced many newsworthy and life-changing events from the events of Sept. 11, 2001 to the war with Iraq to record snowfall this past winter to the sniper attacks last fall. However, despite these events, Leslie says this class has succeeded at the highest levels. "What I will remember most about this class is their closeness with one another, perhaps more than any other class. It is really, really strong," the principal said, adding that she doesn’t think the outside events, like 9/11, helped in creating their close-knit identity. "No, I don’t think that is the case. I was recently talking with retired [Dranesville Elementary School] principal Bev Morrison and she said she could have told me in second grade that this class was going to be real strong, and real close."
As another batch of Herndon High seniors wrap up their advanced placement and Standards of Learning tests and prepare for prom, yearbook signing parties and graduation, Leslie begins looking ahead to next year's graduating class. "That’s the great thing about being a principal," she said, "this is always somebody’s senior class."
For Paula Velasquez, a Catholic University-bound senior, her four years at Herndon High have been very "special." The Latino Club president said she cherished the time she spent working at an on-campus preschool. "It defined who I was and it really left at impact on me," she said. "I want to pursue a career in early childhood education."
AFTER FOUR YEARS of homework and group projects, Velasquez is ready for a new challenge across the Potomac in Washington. The 18-year-old said she chose Catholic, in part, because of its "elegant" campus. But like many seniors, Velasquez is a little nervous about moving from high school to college. "Sure, I am worried that I won’t make it once I am there," she said. "I am afraid to fail because of the big workload and the high level of work."
Faisel Saidi knows how Velasquez feels. The Ivy League-bound Saidi will be packing for New York City this fall when he enrolls in Columbia University. Excited about going to school in the "big city," Saidi is still a little unsure about what to expect in the classroom next year.
"I am definitely a little bit nervous," he said. "I sat in on a class up there once and the intelligence level is so high."
For Colin Reynolds, a Hornet basketball player, nerves about going away to college are tempered by the fact that he will only be about 45 minutes from his family. "I wanted the real college feel. High school was fun but I can’t wait to experience campus life," said Reynolds, in his Hoya T-shirt. "It’s far enough away but close enough that I can always come home if I ever need to."