The following is a letter submitted by Senior Class President Allie Plata addressed to Principal Byrd. Each year the senior class president has to write a letter that explains why their class deserves to receive their senior privileges, which includes an open-campus for seniors. This letter will be read by Byrd and then by the school board and the superintendent. Senior privileges have not yet been granted.
Dear Mr. Byrd,
Coming to George Mason as an eighth grade student, it was hard not to look up to the seniors that ruled the hallways before my Class of 2014. As my class has risen in grade level, we have seen the senior classes continually set a positive example for our Mustang community. These senior classes have truly excelled in mind, body and character, setting the bar high for all classes to follow them. These students were extremely spirited, tremendously talented, and remarkably bright. It was exciting to hear about the state championships they were winning, the National Merit Awards students were receiving, the high numbers of IB diplomas students were earning… but it was all a bit intimidating. What was my class going to do when it was our turn to be the leaders of the school? How could we top the senior classes that had come before us?
After serving George Mason High School as the Class of 2014’s class President for five years consecutively, I have been a first hand witness to the amazing things my class has done for this school and for the Falls Church community. I have watched my classmates flourish and grow to become the responsible and reliable, college-bound students we are today.
Athletically, the Class of 2014 has given Mason sports teams an entirely new name and reputation. Starting with the volleyball team, as eighth graders, the varsity squad ended with a record of 7-11 for the 2009 season. As seniors, the team sported six senior girls and ended their season with a winning record. In fact, two senior players were named to the First Team All-District; Dana Sembera and Sally Karstens have been named to this team for two years consecutively, and Karstens was named the Bull Run District Player of the Year this year, a title that no Mustang has earned in over a decade. With the hard work and persistence of these girls, the volleyball team has not only improved their record dramatically, but this team has risen as one of the most popular sports for student fans and teachers alike to attend and cheer on, bringing together not only our grade but our George Mason family.
Another team that has significantly improved since the Class of 2014 has come to Mason is the cheerleading team. As eighth graders, the varsity cheerleading team had only thirteen cheerleaders to lead our crowd in cheers and support for our schools athletic teams. As of the most recent 2013 fall season, the varsity team had eighteen cheerleaders to pump up the fans, nine of which were seniors. When they were freshman, these ladies were on the first competition team that George Mason has had in many years. They improved from last place finishes in their first years to making it to the Regional Competition as seniors. Senior Katelyn Bond was named to the First Team All-District and senior Samantha Rolander was named to the Second Team All-District, titles the cheerleading team has not been awarded for many years.
The Mason sports team that truly has left its mark on the Falls Church community this season is our football team. The six senior boys who have played on this team since they were in eighth and ninth grade have stuck with this team through the wins and the losses. They did not give up on our Mustang football program when one win per season was a grand accomplishment; instead, they strove to bring the sense of pride back to the football program. A sense of pride so strong, that this team would go to the Regional Playoffs for the first time in five years.
Senior Connor Rhodes rose as one of the stars on the field this season and was named to the First Team All-District’s Defensive Team. Amidst the ups and downs this program has endured within the past five years, these seniors have made a conscious effort to repeatedly show support for our football team, and proudly sport their varsity letter jackets any chance they get.
Though the Class of 2014 has led by example through athletics by proving to younger students that hard work and dedication really can pay off, academically the Mustangs have gleamed. This year, seniors Noelle Darling and Elinore Mclain have qualified to be National Merit Scholarship finalists, and the National Merit Scholarship Program commended sixteen other Mustang seniors for their academic excellence on the PSAT.
To achieve the highest degree of academic excellence, many senior Mustangs took large chunks of their summer vacation to spend more time learning in classrooms and preparing themselves for their future educational careers. Maeve Curtin and Zoe Villamar attended the Governor's School for Agriculture at Virginia Tech. Elinore McLain attended the Governor’s School for Math, Science, and Technology at Lynchburg College. RJ Martinez went to the Visual and Performing Arts Governor’s School at Radford University for instrumental music. Sarah Macris went to the Governor’s School for French at Washington and Lee University. These are rigorous academic programs with top students from Virginia and they are run for 4 weeks, with the exception of language, which is three weeks.
Jaya Chavern attended a program at Carnegie Mellon University for 6 weeks where she lived on campus, took college courses and received college credit for all the intensive courses she was enrolled in. Juliette Hegadorn went to Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee where she took creative writing classes and earned two college English credits for the completion of the program.
With such a high emphasis for students to do well in school and to do well in sports, one might forget that giving back to the community is crucial to being a Mustang that excels in mind, body and character. The Class of 2014 has surpassed the definition of excelling in character, especially through the years of hard work put in by students like the eight senior Eagle Scouts.
Seniors Preston Custer, Truman Custer, Huntley Campbell, Alex Warren, Joseph Warren, Noah Saberhagen, Austin Gogal, and Caleb Allen have all met the requirements to earn the title of Eagle Scout. These students have given back to the community in numerous ways, and have each conducted their own extensive service project that the Scout plans, organizes, leads, and manages. Truman Custer was also a recipient of the Congressional Award Gold Medal, which involves over 400 hours of community service, and only 242 people got the award this year.
Another Mustang senior who has truly raised the bar during her time here at Mason is Maeve Curtin. Curtin (along with alumnus Pamela Arias) kick started the club Best Buddies, which has risen as one of the most respected and enjoyable clubs to be a part of here at Mason. This club creates opportunities for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to form one-to-one friendships with club members. One of the clubs recent campaigns brought attention to using the “R-word” in a derogatory manner, which has changed the language used by many students. She serves as the student representative for the Best Buddies Virginia Board as well. Curtin is also the first student to serve as a member of the Falls Church City Public School Board, and acts as a liaison for students to reach out to and get and give information regarding our schools.
Courtney King went to the Best Buddies International Leadership Conference this year at Indiana University where she learned how to run a successful Best Buddies chapter, but also how to become a well-rounded leader. She is taking what she learned and directly using it to better our school community. Curtin attended this program in the summers of 2011 and 2012 as well.
The Environmental Club is another club at Mason that has had a big impact on our school this year, and especially on our senior class. Led by Maria Dehart, Anastasia Tolstikihn and Cecelia Wiley, the club has completely revamped the senior courtyard this year. They beautified Nora’s Garden by removing all weeds, and planting small garden beds to harvest vegetables from. When the vegetables were ripe, the club invited the entire senior class to attend a salad party, where students enjoyed the lettuces and other vegetables harvested by the club.
The Class of 2014 has captured the essence of a true George Mason Mustang. Collectively we have pushed each other to do better in every academic, athletic and social endeavor in an effort to make George Mason the best it can be. As we reach the end of our first semester this year, we ask that we be granted our senior privileges. This class has left a mark on Mason that will not be forgotten for a very long time, and the Class of 2014 will continue to achieve the highest degree of excellence in all future and current ventures to continually work towards becoming the most successful students we can be.
Allie Plata, Senior Class President