CENTREVILLE — As the Corsica River flows by year after year, a new batch of graduates made their way onto the stage in a tent at Gunston School beside that picturesque river to receive their diplomas and reach into the future. A packed house of board members, faculty, parents and grandparents watched as their loved ones sat on stage. The young ladies all wore white and the gentlemen wore blue blazers. They were introduced with the exuberant sound of a piper.
Each student recited a quote to the audience. They were as varied as passages from The Bible to quotes from TV cartoon character Sponge Bob Square Pants.
“We’re excited for them. They are very talented. We are proud we have been able to have them on campus most of the year. We have been fortunate to be healthy throughout that time. You see the kids grow up over four years. They start with embarkation arriving by boat and then leaving by boat. I am grateful that they will have an in college experience next year,” said Headmaster John Lewis.
“It makes you realize how much community matters,” he said.
There was some mischief afoot. Two graduates, Hannah Worth and Phoebe Wood, decided to dye their hair a shocking shade of red. The administration said either you change your hair or you can’t walk with your class. So they opted to wear long wigs, which they took off with peals of laughter after the ceremony was over.
“I am so excited to be graduating. It’s been a really hard year. I think we all thought at one point that we might not graduate,” said Worth.
Kylee Rushton is headed to Goucher College in the fall.
“I am happy. I will take away so many life lessons from my time at Gunston. It made me the man that I am,” said Rushton.
There was a set of twins that went to grade school together, high school together, and will be going to the same college, Wake Forest University in North Carolina. Colin Ward is going to study business and computer science.
He said, “It was difficult but there were a lot of people to help you with a lot of encouragement. It was fun going to school with a twin. It is nice to always have someone there for you.”
His sister is Lilli Ward will be studying law and environmental policy.
“Gunston was amazing, it has the best community, but I am ready to be gone. I love going to school with my twin. We are very different people so we both kind of do our thing, but it is also nice to have a built in support system,” said Lilli.
As the 49 students graduated, Lydia Periconi gave a farewell greeting as class Valedictorian. There was a funny and piqued goodbye speech from the longest running teacher in the community, Ben Dize. He has taught art since 1999 at Gunston and is retiring after teaching hundreds of students how to draw.
According to Lewis, 100% of the students are going on to college.
There was an emotional moment where Christie Grabis, assistant head of school and lewis, hugged each other in front of the crowd. There seemed to be relief that they had made it through a tough year. They each shed a tear and the Corsica River kept flowing.