McLean hosts annual Convocation ceremony

The Class of 2021 attended an award ceremony to recognize honor students


McLean staff and educators sat alongside the Senior Class Council on a makeshift stage on McLean’s field endzone. They faced an audience of 500 seniors to celebrate their achievements. Photo taken by Kyle Hawley.

Kyle Hawley, Managing Editor

McLean seniors gathered for the last time on the grounds of McLean High School to commemorate the end of high school and celebrate the achievements of the 2021 graduating class. Convocation—an event that traditionally assembles members of the student body for academic purposes—was held this morning to recognize honor students and community leaders. From most visually artistic to best English student, more than a dozen awards were distributed amongst seniors of high regard.

After hundreds of McLean seniors sat in a series of rows that faced a makeshift stage on the football field, Director of Student Services Paul Stansbery kicked off the ceremony with opening remarks. He wrapped up his speech by recognizing over 200 McLean students who are graduating with a 4.0 or higher GPA.

“Kids with a 4.0 or higher GPA were given a red and silver medal that read ‘honor’ on them,” said senior Andrew Nelson, a recipient of the medal. “I don’t mean to brag or anything, but now I’m gonna be dripped out with all my cords and golden stole and now my medal.” Nelson let out a chuckle before joining the other students at the event.

Following the recognition of honor students, the PTA executive board spoke on behalf of McLean’s academic departments to award individual students who excelled in their subjects and area of studies. Recipients of these academic awards showed great passion for these subjects during their high school careers and plan on continuing their studies well into college and future employment.

“It was nice to see the teachers and faculty celebrate students who achieved so much these past four years,” said senior Skylar Tennant, president of the senior class. “And they went beyond just honoring academic-centric students, they also commemorated artistic students and school leaders.”

The Highlander’s very own Editor-in-Chief Marina Qu won the Thistle Award for Excellence in Activities, an award granted to students who work diligently as performers, student government representatives, journalists, and various other community clubs. Qu was also recently recognized as Virginia’s Student Journalist of the Year.

In addition to students, faculty and staff of the school were also recognized for specific educator awards. In fact, abrupt cheers and celebrations erupted from the student audience when physics teacher Billy Thomas won Male Teacher of the Year. Just like the loud celebrations for Thomas, another thing that caught the observer’s attention was the common theme within the student and staff speeches.

“Almost every speech consisted of advice on how to move on from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Tennant said. “Although it was expected, it was still inspiring nonetheless. I genuinely enjoyed all the speeches today because they detailed key advice that I feel like everyone can take to heart.” Tennant read a speech before the graduating class today that featured similar guidance.

McLean Principal Ellen Reilly—who rarely speaks at Convocation—read the closing remarks. In her speech, she lightheartedly poked at certain students caught red-handed at last Friday’s senior prank incident and administrators with man-buns. She finished with a formal comment about how the Class of 2021 has helped the McLean administration grow stronger this past year. Convocation concluded with a water balloon fight underneath the scorching hot sun.