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Graduation Day for SLHS Class of 2012

Graduates - and principal Bruce Butler - say goodbye to South Lakes High School.

More than 500 seniors became South Lakes High School graduates at the school's commencement ceremony on Thursday.

This was the first "big" class at the school following the county redistricting of several years ago and the last for Principal Bruce Butler, who is retiring at the end of the month after seven years as principal of SLHS and 31 years with Fairfax County Public Schools.

The class gave Butler extra recognition for his long hours and dedicated leadership. They renamed the faculty award - given by the faculty to a student who has shown exemplary leadership, scholarship and service to the school and the community - the Bruce Butler Award.

The faculty gave the first Bruce Butler Award to Chris Sheppard, who has served as a three-year class president as well as on the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council and in a variety of other leadership positions.

"Chris is a natural-born leader," Butler said of Sheppard, who represented Virginia in the U.S. Senate Youth Program earlier this school year. "He is a student leader who has committed countless hours to school and the community."

Sheppard will attend St. John's University in New York, where he will study political science and pre law.

Student speaker Will Cochrane's speech theme was "celebration."

"We are gathered here one last time to celebrate ourselves and each other," he said. "We are celebrating academic achievement, a student body that embraces diversity, and leadership."

Cochrane said he was reviewing video to jog his memory about what made the class special. He found a clip from Spirit Week, where the class pretended it was on a roller coaster.

"That epitomizes four years at South Lakes," he said. "There is the typical high school experience with the ups and downs and an end in sight. But our high school experience was not a typical experience.

"It is not every school that has a 'Dress Like Bruce Butler Day' and the tapestry of diversity that we do. We all may have been sitting on different seats on the roller coaster, but all these moments we celebrate - and that's what puts us all on the same ride."

Then the entire class did its roller coaster bit one more time.

The grads will return to South Lakes Thursday night for the traditional All-Night Grad Party, which will run until 5 a.m. Friday.

Check Reston Patch later for a commencement photo gallery and pictures from the All Night Grad Party - and add your own!

Catherine Alifrangis June 15, 2012 at 01:39 PM
9:38 am on Friday, June 15, 2012 I loved the unity, the spirit, the sense of fun, the appreciation, and the "classy" behavior. All the best to each of the graduates... and to Mr. Butler.
Seahawk Dad June 15, 2012 at 02:46 PM
I love the term "tapestry of diversity". It really exemplifies South Lakes, where the school boasts students from over 100 countries speaking 78 languages. And when I look at the statistics that say that 31 percent of the students are in economic situations requiring lunch program aid (vs. 1 percent for McLean and Langley), I marvel at the progress that this school has made in the last 7 years under Bruce. He is not perfect, but he did a heck of a job and the students loved him. Vindication from some recent columns in the patch unfairly tying him to what South Lakes was like 10 years ago. It has come such a long way, and I am so happy for the class of 2012. They have been part of this transformation.
Karen Goff June 15, 2012 at 02:54 PM
Well said, Seahawk Dad. But I am confused. I can't recall any columns (ie staff written stories, blog items) unfairly tying Butler to what South Lakes was like 10 years ago unless it was to point out the school's progress in earning scholarship money, SOL pass rates, etc . Are you sure what you are talking about was not said in reader comments?
Seahawk mom June 15, 2012 at 04:20 PM
So proud of the class of 2012 and the family they have become. Well done seniors. Well done Mr.Cochrane.
Seahawk Dad June 15, 2012 at 04:31 PM
@Karen: There was a letter called "What we want in a principal for SLHS". I will not name the author because there is no sense to cover the same old ground in discussion. But in my responses to that letter, I thought it made some very good points but unnecessarily lumped Bruce Butler in with principals before him and the state of the school 10+ years ago before he joined South Lakes.
Karen Goff June 15, 2012 at 05:04 PM
Ah, forgot about that. I understand. Just want to point out that that was a reader's opinion and not the opinion of Patch.

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