“I wondered why me,” was Thaddeus Kiesnowski’s first reaction when asked to speak at Brentsville District High School’s graduation.
Kiesnowski, a retired Brentsville District teacher, was chosen by the graduating class of 154 to speak Tuesday at the Nissan Pavilion.
Kiesnowski came to Brentsville District in 1979 and retired during the 2001-02 school year. He wondered if he was chosen because he taught American History, psychology or sociology. He noted he knew each student in the Class of 2003.
“Here you are facing a rite of passage,” he told the class. “Graduation in America has always been a marked important event for all.”
Kiesnowski pointed out that the road leading up to graduation was not always an easy one. In some cultures, a rite of passage may be painful, he said.
He reminded students that what they do to make a difference is key to their success as well as parents’ and teachers’ success.
“The vision quest is the name of this journey,” Kiesnowski said, noting many students may have pressing questions such as, “Who am I? What do I have to give? How can I heal my wounds?”
“Today is the end of one vision quest and the beginning of a new vision,” he added.
Kiesnowski’s goal was to be a teacher and coach. He taught and coached about every sport at Brentsville District, including cross country, he said.
He encouraged the students to dream and set goals.
“The rite of passage, our vision quest, your dreams are the things I want you to remember about this graduation,” he said.
Valedictorian Holly Smelser led the class with a 4.182 accumulative grade point average. Smelser will attend Florida College in Florida to study architecture. Salutatorian Alea Shareeza Mohammed has a 4.136 accumulative grade point average. Mohammed has plans to attend St. John’s University in New York, said Principal Michael Mulgrew.
Mohammed spoke on molding keys as the class closes one door on high school and opens another to future endeavors. The keys could not be complete if it were not for the infinite support from parents and family members, she said.
“Our many talented teachers have influenced us in ways we’ll never know or understand,” Mohammed said.
She encouraged the class to think outside of the box, a commonly used phrase.
“Class of 2003 always remember you are unique just like everyone else,” Mohammed said.
Staff writer Jennifer Brennan can be reached at (703) 368-3101, Ext. 123.