Moments before Stone Bridge High School's Class of 2006 began the processional of its high-school graduation, the back halls of George Mason University's Patriot Center were filled with questions about which side the tassels should be on and worried conversations about tripping while on stage.
The Stone Bridge seniors had nothing to worry about, however, and their June 14 graduation ceremony was a true celebration.
"We invite you, not to be part of an ending, but to be part of the beginning of us changing the world," senior class secretary Amanda Conroy told the audience.
Valedictorian Chris Belyea took his classmates on a journey through their four years at Stone Bridge to remind them all of how far they had come. He reminded them of their nerve-wrecking freshman year, their slow growth through sophomore year, the confidence they had gained by their junior year and the excitement they had felt and the fun they had had throughout their senior year.
"Somewhere, at some point, we have each gained something," he said. "That [thing] will grow into the coloration that will characterize you through your deeds and your thoughts for the rest of your lives."
Belyea encouraged his fellow graduates to "live out that potential and explore your purpose" as they moved into the next phase of their lives.
Former Washington Redskins player and children's book author, Ken Harvey, spoke to the graduating class about the importance of dreams, hard work and their ability to make a difference.
"If you look at the world and say it is so messed up, then change it," he said. "If you look at the world and say it is perfect, then keep it that way."
Harvey told the graduates how lucky they were to have made it through high school. He said graduation was a victory for them, but that there were a lot more things ahead of them that they needed to do.
"This small victory is only part of the game," he said. "This is the first quarter of your life. It would be sad to have a great first quarter or first half and then lose the game. There is a bigger journey ahead of you."
Harvey left the graduates with a thought about the futileness of regret.
"You don't want to say, 'I wish I would have, I wish I could have, I should have,'" he said. "This is your moment now, go out and take it."
<1b>— Erika Jacobson