As Broad Run High School Principal Edgar Markley invited the Class of 2006 to move their tassels from right to left, the Broad Run seniors erupted in cheers and threw balloons filled with confetti into the air.
"This is a right of passage," Markley said. "This is a fleeting moment of time between the past and the future."
Broad Run graduated 407 seniors, June 17, at George Mason University's Patriot Center in a ceremony marked with both laughter and moments of reflection.
Guest speaker Lt. Col. Jackie Parker spoke about her own experiences growing up and going through school. Parker graduated from high school at the age of 14 and was the first female test pilot for the Air Force.
"The one key method of success is confidence," she said. "That is something we can all do, something we can all achieve."
Parker told the graduates that the most important thing was to find something they could do to give them the confidence to try anything.
"I hope that somewhere you do go out and make that small achievement or that big achievement that makes you dream of all the things you want to do," she said. "I don't ever want the best thing I've ever done to be behind me, so I hope the best for all of you."
Every year Broad Run holds a competition to decide which senior will give the student address. This year Michael Ramirez, who will be going into the military, was the selected speaker.
"All that we've learned at Broad Run cannot be added or measured in a GPA," he said. "It cannot be written in a transcript or briefly described in a diploma."
Ramirez paid tribute to two his friends and classmates, Ryan Bickel and Nick Shomaker, who died.
"Our ability to come together shows a lot about this class," he said. "[Those experiences] made us stronger and today we leave as a family."
As the Broad Run Class of 2006 prepared to leave its high-school years behind, Ramirez reminded his classmates that "the day we were dreaming about, that life we were dreaming of having is right outside those doors" and they should honor everything high school gave them.
"Take a look around you," he said, "and realize what it really is that four years at Broad Run has given us."
— Erika Jacobson