Over 400 Prince George High School students celebrated the completion of their secondary education careers during the Class of 2023's commencement ceremony at the school's athletic complex on Saturday, June 17, 2023, in front of thousands of family, friends, and community members.
Picturesque weather over the county served as a fitting backdrop for students as they grasped their tassels before tossing their caps into the sky to celebrate their years of accomplishments in elementary, middle, and high school to reach graduation day, a moment over a decade in the making.
Speakers during the event, including school principal Dr. Abbie Martin, superintendent Dr. Lisa Pennycuff, and class members, shared inspiring words for the hundreds of students to reflect on as they prepare for their next step in life, be it heading to colleges and universities across the United States, joining the military, entering the workforce, or taking time off to discover themselves.
"Your dreams should forever have a place in your heart and forever have a place in the friends, family, and community that helped you rise to the occasion," Prince George High School principal Dr. Martin said. "Today is a marker on the path and one that is only the beginning for you. As you head off to college, the military, or begin your career, never stop believing in those childhood dreams, those moments that made you excited for your future. Cherish them and nurture them. We are all so very proud of each of you."
"Now go build your tomorrows knowing that you have been given a strong foundation to build your future on. We can't wait to see all that you will choose to do,” Division Superintendent Dr. Pennycuff said. “We are proud to be where you grew up, proud to be your hometown, and very proud of all that you are today and will become in the years ahead. We congratulate you, our Prince George Royals and newest alumni."
On stage for the event, the Prince George School Board offered warm handshakes and congratulations to each graduate as they completed their march with their diploma in hand and offered their own words of wisdom for the latest class of Prince George graduates.
"Make a plan for the future that includes whatever your passion is," Prince George County School Board Chairman Cecil M. Smith said. "Have a contingency plan - just in case the first plan doesn't work out. If you can follow your passion, your jobs will not seem like work; it will seem like sheer joy every day."
"Graduates, be true to yourself, and do not let others bring you down," Prince George School Board Vice-Chair Jill A. Andrews said. "Always do the best you can in your community and the workplace – wherever you are. Do not always follow the crowd - be the leader of the crowd."
This year's ceremony carried special significance for Prince George County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Instruction and Accountability William "Bill" A. Barnes, Jr., as its his final graduation where he will serve as a staff member of the division, concluding a 40-plus year career in the county's schools, and over 50 years as an educator with his retirement this year.
Earlier this month, Barnes was honored with the district's Spirit of Prince George Award
, recognizing Barnes for his years of service and measurable impact on the community, teaching generations of Prince George County children, with many returning to the division, working alongside Barnes in education.
As he leaves PGCPS, Barnes also offered a final thought for the now-graduates to carry with them into the world and a message to those he has worked alongside for over four decades with the division.
"I have worked with the best people in the world during my 53-year career in education. To my co-workers, I thank you for walking with me through this life,” William Barnes, Jr. said. “To 'my' children and our graduates, go forth and live your life to the fullest, experience all that you can, be careful, and finally, never make a hasty decision about the important things in your life. I encourage you to use the '24-hour rule; think through everything overnight. Respect everyone and be kind."
As many of Prince George High School's 2023 graduates prepare to transition to post-secondary learning at area colleges and universities, they will possess hundreds of thousands of dollars in scholarships to support their education. As of June 14, 2023, the class received $1,114,918 in scholarships, representing the countless hours of applying and interviewing for these opportunities.
The community is invited to visit the district's website to see more photos from this year's commencement ceremony through the district's Facebook page
and Flickr galleries
2023-24 School Year Details & Back-to-School Fair
As Prince George High School's graduation ceremony provides a fitting sunset to the 2022-23 School Year, the district reminds families and the community of the upcoming pre-Labor Day start for the 2023-24 School Year.
Students will begin the next school year on Monday, August 21, 2023. The upcoming school year's calendar is available to view on the division's website and each school's website under the "About Us" dropdown menu.
The school year will kick off with the annual Back-to-School Fair community celebration on Thursday, August 10, 2023 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. This year's fair will take on a different look, being hosted at Prince George High School and transitioning to a drive-through style, allowing families to drive through the high school's bus loop to receive backpacks filled with supplies and other materials handed out by Prince George County teachers, staff, and other community volunteers.
Community donations of new, unopened school supplies - including pencils, blue/black ink pens, filler paper, crayons, and more - are already being accepted at each of the district's schools and the Prince George School Board Office during summer operating hours, from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Additionally, the community can drop off supplies at the Prince George Police Department, Prince George Social Services, and the ARLS Prince George Library during regular business hours.
More details on the upcoming fair will be shared later this month.