By Amira Zaidi
Students, administrators and community members formally celebrated the opening of Loudoun’s newest high school last Friday.
Independence High School in Ashburn is the county’s 16th high school and the second opened by Principal John Gabriel, having previously opened John Champe High School in 2012.
Built next to Brambleton Middle School, the Home of the Tigers opened with 1,071 students who previously attended Rock Ridge, Briar Woods and John Champe high schools.
“I lost a lot of hair this summer,” Gabriel joked after a presentation showing the photographs during every stage of the school’s construction.
The dedication ceremony was attended by Superintendent Eric Williams and School board members Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles), Beth Huck (At Large), Chris Croll (Catoctin) and Tom Marshall (Leesburg), along with member-elect Ian Serotkin (Blue Ridge).
Huck, whose daughter attends the school, highlighted a slogan written on the school wall that says, “show your stripes.”
“Some of my work on the school board has been to promote acceptance of all types of students in our schools and to promote equity. I hope that you guys take that phrase at heart and feel comfortable showing your stripes and feel at home at Independence High School,” Huck said.
The students’ efforts to embrace their diversity was demonstrated in the ribbon-cutting ceremony, as Williams was joined on stage by students representing multiple groups—Student Council President Ainsley Hathaway, Junior Class President Sam Johnson, Sophomore Class Presidents Reese Brown and Hriday Unadkat, Freshman Class President Caleb Dickson, Black Student Union President Hudson Aikins, Gay-Straight Alliance President Sophia Howell, and Muslim Student Association President Zainab Iftikhar.
Hathaway, who also serves as the tiger’s student School Board representative, talked about making the transition to a new school.
“Initially, I was uncertain if I would be able to adjust with the change after getting acclimated to my previous high school. The more I thought about it, the more I could imagine all the opportunities that I would be able to have if I made a switch. I imagined an environment full of positivity, encouragement, energy and spirit and this vision has come true. I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else now,” she said.
Morse said the selection of the school’s name was significant.
“Our future vision of Indy will be this beautiful campus dedicated to delivering a world-class education to you. We could’ve named the school after a creek or a pool or a run or a river, or a mill or a hill or a ridge or a ride or a ridge or a ridge or a bridge, but no. Independence is cool. And a diploma from this school is the one thing absolutely necessary for you to gain your independence,” he said.
PTO President Tom Gurganous said the organization was working to make the school a cornerstone of the community and urged area parents to get involved.