• Important Dates -->
  • 6/6: Capstone Gala and Senior Awards
  • 6/7: Rent Revival Performance
  • 6/13: Graduation Practice
  • 6/14: Last Day of School
  • 6/14: Graduation @ RRHS
The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School


The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School


The Student News Site of Rock Ridge High School


Seniors Put Their Caps on Senior Year With Capstone Gala and Awards Ceremony

On June 6, seniors celebrated their last day of high school with the capstone gala, showcasing the projects they pursued in their last month of school, and ended the evening with an awards ceremony where 163 awards were given out to honor seniors’ accomplishments.
Melissa Waas
French teacher and language department chair Veronique Billington announces the 26 students who got the Seal of Biliteracy. Students receive the seal upon passing an exam, which tests their ability to read and write one or more languages next to English; usually, this is a language that is not offered at school and for which students can earn extra language credits by passing the exam.

On Thursday, June 6, seniors celebrated their last day of high school with a capstone gala displaying their projects and an award ceremony honoring their accomplishments. After a month of seniors being in and out of school for their capstone projects, they  returned to school for their final week on June 3, and officially ended their senior year on June 6. 

Seniors had the option of spending their last month of school, from May 13 to June 3, at a company or business related to the field they want to pursue after college. Some went to their old elementary or middle school to assist a teacher, while others visited tech companies, research centers, or volunteer organizations to shadow employees and gain insight about what a job in their dream field looks like. Seniors showcased their projects on colorful tri-folds for parents, teachers, and peers to learn more about at the capstone gala. 

Senior Alyssa Tucker did her capstone project at the Loudoun Soil and Water Conservation District. “We worked through a couple of programs, such as the reforestation program, which were planting trees in areas that had been deforested,” Tucker said. “My favorite part about the experience was being out in nature because a lot of the time we don’t really think about it too much or really get to take in all of its beauty. I loved getting to see wildlife; I got to see some horses and cows, and overall, it was a lot of fun.”

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While the capstone project was an opportunity to experience what a job in the field they want to pursue after college looks like, it was also an experience that prepared seniors for the job life and how stressful or demanding it can be. Senior Isha Vepa did her capstone project at the Loudoun Montessori School, a private elementary school, and learned a lot over four weeks of supervising three to five year old children. “[The experience taught me] patience for the most part, because I figured out that it was hard to handle some kids since some had different limits of tolerance,” Vepa said. “At that time, I  learned to cooperate with each kid as they had their own limits and behavior range. Some of them get irritated [and] triggered way easier than others, which led us to put more effort and energy towards them.”

After the capstone gala, seniors and their parents relocated to the auditorium for the awards ceremony.  The ceremony began by honoring scholarships seniors won; for this, representatives from the respective organizations that gave out the scholarship came on stage to talk about why the scholarship recipient earned the grant. The ceremony moved on to honoring senior accomplishments in academics, athletics, volunteer involvement, and a special exhibition of school values by giving out awards. In total, 163 awards were given out. 

The ceremony had a brief intermission for the performance of the song “Home” by Phillip Phillips, sung by seniors Ananya Akula, James Madamba, and Kaia Greene.

The senior awards ceremony acknowledged the accomplishments, talents, and commitment of the class of 2024  throughout the course of their high school career, even as they faced challenges like their first year being held virtually due to COVID. While their teachers read letters informing the audience about the award recipients’ accomplishments and character, it was clear that the effort these seniors put into enriching the school by joining organizations and activities and starting their own clubs made a lasting impact on their school community. 

Senior Ananya Muralikrishna presents her capstone project to a passerby. Muralikrishna worked at Stone Hill Middle School in a French class for a month and got to experience what it’s like trying to teach middle school students. “[Working in a middle school is] a little bit of a different experience than working in a high school because the kids lose interest really quickly, so you have to really work hard to get their attention,” Muralikrishna said. “At first I was a little bit scared; I was like, ‘I am not really an authoritative figure in this classroom,’ ‘I don’t really know what I am doing here, I’m kind of scared.’ At the end of it, I was good friends with the kids and I was confident that I could be like, ‘Guys, be quiet,’ and they would.” (Melissa Waas)
Seniors Medha Karumuri and Eunice Makassi talk about their capstone experience, for which they did an internship at the company Iridium SNOC (Satellite Network Operations Center). While at the company, they shadowed employees, helped with mission planning, participated in team activities with other interns, and connected with other female engineers.
(Rachel Bhardwaj)
Senior Isha Vepa and her partner Nash Patel worked together at the Loudoun Montessori School, a private elementary school. Though Vepa doesn’t want to pursue the field of education, her capstone project offered her a glimpse into something she always wanted to do: experience what it’s like to work with little children. “I always wanted to babysit; not really the teaching route, but kind of something like a part-time job, ” Vepa said. “When I got into this, I really needed to learn new rules like 10-hour courses for cautions safety.”
(Rachel Bhardwaj)
Principal John Duellman claps as he acknowledges seniors’ accomplishments at the senior award ceremony. 163 awards were announced, and the event also featured a musical performance and honored students who received special scholarships.
(Rachel Bhardwaj)
Seniors Kaia Greene, Ananya Akula and James Madamba sing “Home” by Philip Philips as an intermission during the awards ceremony. Akula was grateful for the opportunity to perform on stage one last time. “Kaia and James are both super talented, and it is always an honor to perform with them,” Akula said. “It was nice to have the last time performing on the Rock Ridge stage.”
(Melissa Waas)
Cherita Lewis of the Psi Rho Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority announces senior Nicole Smith as the recipient for the Psi Rho Omega Chapter 2024 Merit scholarship. High school seniors of African or African-American descent living in Loudoun County are eligible to apply for this $2000 scholarship.
(Melissa Waas)
English teacher Jessica Berg hugs senior Karla Jean Valle as she announces her as the recipient for the Women and Gender Studies scholarship. Valle received $750, honoring her dedication and perseverance to fight for women’s rights and her own voice.
(Rachel Bhardwaj)
Principal John Duellman claps as he announces the recipients of the Flight Award. Only two seniors were selected for this award: seniors Aarohi Motwani and Dylan Neach. They each received a $1000 scholarship for their embodying of the school values and enthusiasm towards helping others and making Rock Ridge a better place. (Rachel Bhardwaj)


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About the Contributors
Rachel Bhardwaj
Rachel Bhardwaj, Staff Writer
Rachel Bhardwaj is a freshman, this is her first year in Newspaper. "I'm excited for this year," Bhardwaj said. Some of her interests and hobbies include drawing, writing fictional pieces, and listening to music. In her freetime, Bhardwaj likes to play badminton with family and friends.
Melissa Waas
Melissa Waas, Video Editor
Melissa Waas is a junior who is the Video Editor for The Blaze. Waas has a place in her heart for making films with her two sisters, who also love to make craft and movie projects.  Originally from France, Waas moved in 8th grade, and she loves being part of the Rock Ridge community, where she is also involved in PEER and is one of the WINGS mentors.
Rodrigue Gomado
Rodrigue Gomado, Staff Writer
Rodrigue is a junior and happy to be rejoining The Blaze this year after hitting a pause during sophomore year. He describes himself as funny, smart and interesting, and his drive to pursue activities  ‘just because why not?’ has led him to join a multitude of Rock Ridge’s in-school and after school clubs. Depending on the athletic season, Rodrigue can be found in the school gym practicing cheer stunts with his teammates, or out on the Track field. He serves as the Junior Class Communications Officer and has fun planning SCA events such as Homecoming Hallway Decorating or preparing Friday morning school announcements.

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