Whether its College, the Workforce, or the Military, “Every Decision is a Choice Worth Celebrating”

Stafford County high schools honor their graduating seniors.

Mountain View High School senior Lily Sanford will be attending James Madison University next year. She’s been accepted onto the university’s official dance team and plans to major in psychology.

While in high school, she’s been involved in student government, and this year is a senior class officer.

Her classmate Asil Shirzad, who will turn 20 in August, came to the United States from Afghanistan in 2021 with his sister and brother-in-law, speaking seven languages but not English.

Every day after school, Shirzad works at McDonalds from 4 p.m. to 1 a.m. He sends money back to Afghanistan to support his parents and his two brothers. He’ll attend Northern Virginia Community College in the fall to study computer science, which has been his dream since he was 7 years old.

These two very different high school experiences and post-secondary plans were among the hundreds Stafford County Public Schools celebrated on Wednesday as part of its annual Decision Day ceremonies.

The division’s goal is for every graduating senior to have a plan to either enter the workforce, enlist in the military, or pursue higher education.

Decision Day is “more than just a ceremony; it’s a testament to the hard work and future aspirations of each and every student,” the school division’s press release about the event states. “Whether they’re joining the military, pursuing higher education, or entering the workforce, every decision is a choice worth celebrating.”

Graduating seniors and staff members at each of the county’s five high schools were invited to wear clothing representing their chosen college, trade school, military branch, or employer. The schools hosted breakfast and lunch for the seniors and presented each with a certificate honoring their post-secondary school plans.

At Mountain View on Wednesday, principal Stefanie Sullivan handed out 543 certificates.

About 84% of the graduating seniors indicated that they plan to attend a two- or four-year college or a trade school, according to the school’s counseling department. Eleven percent said they will be entering the workforce and 5% are enlisting in the military.

“It’s cool to be able to see where all my classmates are going and celebrate their accomplishments,” Sanford said.

In addition to all the activities she’s been a part of, Sanford said the best part about high school for her has been the teachers who supported her—especially English teacher Josi Brooks and counselor Joyce Lopes.

Shirzad also said the teachers have been the best part of his U.S. high school experience.

“The teachers are amazing,” he said. “They help me a lot.”

Managing Editor and Correspondent