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Top 5 percent of Loudoun students honored at Excellence in Education banquet

Evan Fenton of Heritage High School (right) accepts his certificate from School Board member Tom Marshall (Leesburg) at the 34th annual Excellence in Education event. Times-Mirror/Hannah Dellinger
The top 5 percent of Loudoun County Public School students, 300 in all, were honored Sunday at the Loudoun Education Foundation's 34th annual Excellence in Education event at the National Conference Center in Leesburg.

Principals shared stories of students overcoming obstacles, finding unique interests, honing their talents and being inspired by their teachers to perform to the best of their ability. The event gives a glimpse into the highly demanding schedules and commitments of top performing students. Some of the honored students take up to seven Advanced Placement (AP) courses at a time, volunteer at various organizations and lead numerous school clubs.

The group of students was made up of teens like Wahaj Syed of Potomac Falls High School, who built a water filtration system in Pakistan over the summer. He manages to volunteer and teach at the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center, among many other activities, while keeping up his standing as an AP scholar.

Some students like Briana Sosa of John Champe High School make the effort to take AP classes through distance learning while embarking on big life goals. Sosa couldn’t make it to the banquet because she’s training with the Miami City Ballet. Before that she had lead roles in ballets at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Warner Theatre.

Some of the students overcame language barriers to become some the best in their class. Alexis and Isabel Nolasco, twins from Park View High School, didn’t know any English when they started school.They weren’t placed in the English Language Learners program, but they “made the best of it.”

While Park View Assistant Principal Troy Washington introduced the Nolascos, he said “Isabel wants to thank her parents for working so hard and sacrificing so much for us.”

The future career paths the students listed ranged from neuroscience to diplomacy to engineering and cyber security.

Dylan Clairmont of Stone Bridge High School said he wants to become an “adventurer.” Blair Smith of Freedom High School wants to become a policy maker so the can “promote peace and acceptance.” Kush Patel of Tuscarora High School said he wants to be a “data architect.”

The event also honored the teachers and parents who helped get the students get where they are. Each student got to invite the teacher who inspired them the most.

LCPS’ teacher of the year, John Tuck of Rolling Ridge Elementary School, was recognized at the event. He provided a piece of advice to the students as he accepted his award.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re starting at the bottom of your field. Work as hard as you can to achieve your goals, no matter how small they seem,” he said. “Continue the hard work that got you here tonight into the rest of your life”

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