June 13, 2018
Dear Flint Hill Families,
Wow! Last Friday was quite an end to the school year. It was a spectacular Commencement. While this exciting event was all about the tremendous Class of 2018, it really was for the parents, grandparents, siblings and friends who came to celebrate them. The speeches by Valedictorian John Moxley and Salutatorian Karolena Salmon were outstanding, and both referenced various aspects of our School’s vision. It was exciting to hear them reflect on how important those characteristics of school life are to them. Those are two amazing young people who will go far in life.
Our commencement speaker this year was The First Lady of Panama Lorena Castillo de Varela, who graduated from Flint Hill on June 8, 1988, exactly 30 years before the day she gave her commencement address to the Class of 2018! Her words of support, encouragement and wisdom were heartfelt and sincere, as she urged the students to gather their own voice, to make a difference and to speak up. In her speech, she shared many powerful lessons. Among them were:
- “We are not victims: We are the result of the choices we make in life.”
- “You are unique: Love yourself and be the best you can be every day.”
- “Always fight for the good in this world; don’t be a bystander. Never stay in your comfort zone.”
- “Commitment: First you have to make a commitment with yourself, to love yourself more than anything, to do whatever you have to do, to be well and happy, because if you are not, nobody around you will.”
- “Treat others as you would like to be treated.”
- “Smile! Smiles open doors and brighten your day and that of others.”
But it was the Class of 2018 that was the true focal point of the morning. There were 133 strong seniors in this class. Most of them were the youngest in their families. Within this class, there were writers, leaders, athletes, artists, scholars, thinkers, analysts, investors, entrepreneurs and students who truly made a difference. Would you be surprised to know that in this class there were students who had been published in numerous national publications and several who received amazing writing awards?
Seven students attended last summer’s Virginia Governor’s Schools. There was a principal oboe player for Loudoun Symphony Youth Orchestra and member of the Capital Symphonic Youth Orchestra. We had a member of the National Bronze Medal Championship Synchronized Ice Skating Team, who recently received a Graduating Senior Platinum Award by the US Figure Skating Association. We had a nationally-ranked gymnast who was always a strong contender in various events in states and at the Junior Olympic Trials. We had a student who was the Grand Prize Winner several years ago in the highly competitive Google Code-in (GCI) contest. And a Senior who received the National Construction Gold Medal from the King of Cambodia, for building a primary school in a landmine-filled jungle, and also co-founded the Teach Them to Fish Foundation, which is helping build schools in Uganda and Cambodia.
We had students who started clubs, initiated sports, and students who placed “fifth in the world” in a Student Unmanned Aerial Competition against two other high schools and 51 colleges and universities from the United States, Canada, Turkey and Israel. They came in first among the high schools and fifth against universities, with only Cornell University competing among American schools.
This is a class that won six conference championships in athletics this year, and 35 conference and tournament championships during their Upper School careers. They won two state titles this year; had the All-Met Player of the year in volleyball; had two athletes named Virginia Players of the Year in their respective sports; the individual MAC Cross Country Champion; 46 who were All-Conference; 30 who were All-State; and a female swimmer who was a 12-time All-American over four years!
The Class of 2018 performed their Senior Projects all over the country with financial services; technology firms; churches and religious organizations; social media / marketing firms; working in real estate; the Fairfax County Police Department and more. This class has truly done it all.
Like those who came before them, these are students who taught us all valuable lessons throughout their time with us — lessons learned from observing their courage, determination, passion and authenticity. They taught us how to better understand, appreciate and value issues of inclusion, equity, sexual orientation and gender identity. They always modeled our four core values and inspired us with their commitment. These are students who in their young years have indeed left a mark on our School. And, they are certain to go far. In fact, next year, they will attend 75 schools in 23 states and the District of Columbia. One will attend the United States Air Force Academy. Sixteen will play college sports, and members of this class were awarded merit and named scholarships to the tune of well over $5 million.
But they didn’t do it alone. They were a part of our school family and of a broader team of Huskies. Parents, faculty, staff, Trustees, extended family members and friends all were part of helping them to make this tremendous step forward in their educational journey.
As we begin our summer breaks, there is a part of me that stands in awe of this class and feel inspired by them. In the business world, there is often talk about “outcomes” and “ROI.” Watching the celebration of these incredible students was a clear demonstration of the outcomes we experience at Flint Hill. Congratulations Class of 2018, and best wishes as you enter this next exciting phase in your lives!
I urge all of us to get the rest that we need to get our buckets of energy refilled for whatever adventures lay ahead. And let’s take pride in the fact that we are part of something far greater than ourselves. We are part of an educational experience that far exceeds what most people have ever experienced before.
If we can ever be helpful in any way as we go forward, please don’t hesitate to call on us. Have a tremendous summer, and we look forward to seeing you when we get back!
Best wishes to you!
John M. Thomas
About the Headmaster
Since 2005, John Thomas has served as Flint Hill’s Headmaster. He is a graduate of the McDonogh School in Baltimore, Maryland, and holds degrees from Randolph Macon College and Towson University, with a certificate in school psychology from the State of Maryland. He is the co-author of “Psychodiagnostic Evaluation of Children: A Casebook Approach,” and has articles published in the book “Parenting Teens: Collected Essays by Independent School Educators,” published by the Secondary School Admission Test Board. John has served on the Board of Trustees for the Virginia Association of Independent Schools (VAIS) and the Association of Independent Schools of Greater Washington (AISGW), and is a current Board member for Emerging Scholars. He and his wife Emily, a former teacher, have three grown sons, three daughters-in-law and four grandchildren.