Graduates Reflect on Their Franciscan School Experience

TFS Graduate 8th graduates experience

It’s graduation season at The Franciscan School. A time of joy, celebrating accomplishments, and remembering all the years that led to this moment. While we can’t have our usual end of the year ceremonies, our graduates have not wavered in their optimism and faith.

“The TFS Class of 2020 is graduating in a most extraordinary time, but where others might see only confusion, anxiety, and doubt, they have been taught and have been inspired to search always for the more God reveals in such times. For them, It is not a time to fear, but a time to decide what must be done! They are uniquely poised to take on their responsibility to be God’s beacons of light in our world!” said Father Jim.

Assistant Principal Colette T. Dziadul also noted that, “The Class of 2020 are scholars, athletes, musicians, artists and servant leaders. They are an amazing group of young men and women who have embraced their TFS education and have shown their gifts and talents in many ways. St. Francis noted that all the darkness in the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle. The Class of 2020 has been the light of our candle and I have no doubt that they will continue to use the gifts that God has given them to shine their light upon the world.”

We’re able to connect with all our families from a safe distance to celebrate our graduation virtually this year. But we also spoke to ten graduates on what it means to leave their legacy during such a significant time in the world. Here is what they had to say!

Final Farewell

Max Bjerke

Max Bjerke has been a student at TFS since Kindergarten, and he also attended the St. Francis preschool for three years. 

TFS Graduate: Max Bjerke

“I met my best friends to this day when I was in first grade.”

The TFS Experience: My most memorable experience at TFS was the field trip to Washington, D.C., in eighth grade. The field trip was not only educational, but it was also a time when our class was able to create a closer and stronger bond with each other.

What TFS Means to Me: Being able to spend every day together has helped to make us feel like a family, which is why being apart for the last two months of this school year has been difficult. To be honest, graduation felt like it was ages away, even at the beginning of the school year. Now that it is only one week away, you start to wish that you had more time to be with everyone.

Attending TFS has taught me a lot about being a conscientious student and being a person of faith. The more years I spent at TFS, the more I learned about God’s love. All of the teachers and faculty make us feel comfortable telling them about not only schoolwork but about activities we participate in outside of school. They are very supportive of the students, making sure that every student in the school can come to them for anything.

I Am TFS: As the years have gone by at TFS, I have grown from being a boy into a responsible, mature, and hard-working young man. I hope that the class of 2020 is remembered for the close bond that we established in and outside the classroom.

Sophie Ingle

Sophie is a veteran, having been a student at TFS for nine years (kindergarten-eighth grade). 

TFS Graduate: Sophie Ingle

“Through the amazing staff and faculty, TFS has taught me and helped me be the best version of myself, and to never give up. If I ever felt like I needed to “fit in,” TFS taught me that I do not need to “fit in” and [that] I am already enough. I learned that being myself [brought] me more joy than me trying to be someone I wasn’t.”

The TFS Experience: I have many memorable experiences at TFS. But my favorite experience was the Washington DC trip, specifically getting the opportunity to be a part of the wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier this year.

What TFS Means to Me: The teachers and the classes helped me grow into who I am today. I am a member of the TFS band, I do artwork in my free time, and I am an altar server at church. My music teacher and band director Mr. Barbee introduced me to the world of music in the fourth grade and [has] taught me everything he [knows] about different instruments.

I started learning how to play the flute, and whenever I felt like I could not do it and that it was too hard, Mr. Barbee was there to make sure I did not give up. He would always give me music to practice and new challenges with different pieces. He would encourage not only me but others as well to accept the new challenges and to try to overcome them. Through my religious classes, I was able to grow in my faith and truly understand what it means to be Catholic, which led to me becoming an altar server and a youth lector in training.

I never was able to fully see how much TFS has impacted me until these last few weeks of reflection. I took going to class and doing different hands-on learning and activities for granted. Now I look back and see how much they have done for me.

Even now, in these strange times [during] quarantine, the teachers are answering questions through email, offering Zoom calls to people who need it, coming up with creative ways to do labs at home, and most importantly, they are teaching us to keep our faith strong. I will always remember the amount of love and support that the staff and faculty have given me while taking these next few steps into the future.

I Am TFS: The legacy I hope to leave is that you should not be afraid to make the right turns in the road. To be yourself no matter what anyone says and hat you should always try something new because you never know what might become of it.

Emma Moffett

Emma has spent twelve years at TFS (four at the preschool and eight at the actual school).

TFS Graduate: Emma Moffett

“My time at TFS has taught me character and how to be gracious.”

The TFS Experience: My most memorable experience at TFS was the three overnight field trips in 5th grade and the two in the 8th grade. These were probably some of my best memories from over the years and helped bring my class closer together.

What TFS Means to Me: My time at TFS has taught me character and how to be gracious. I have also learned good morals and how to treat everyone, so everyone feels appreciated. I’ve grown over the years personally as I have learned how to be myself, think for myself, and thrive with other people and in real-world situations.

I Am TFS: The legacy I hope to leave as the graduation class is that of the friars. I know that TFS will change after I leave due to the friars leaving, so I hope to leave the legacy of the love they have shown us.

Michael Lotchin

Michael enrolled at TFS as a new sixth-grade student from the St. Agnes School in Arlington, Virginia.

TFS Graduate: Michael Lotchin

“TFS teachers taught me to make the most out of every opportunity and to work hard to achieve your goals.” 

The TFS Experience: There were several memorable experiences that included academic and athletic highlights. In seventh grade, I traveled to San Francisco to represent TFS and compete in the National Academic Decathlon. I had the opportunity to play for TFS in soccer championship games two years in a row under the lights at Cardinal Gibbons. I also played in the Shamrock basketball tournament with our TFS basketball team two years in a row.

What TFS Means to Me: TFS teachers taught me how to make the most out of every opportunity and to work hard to achieve your goals.

I Am TFS: I definitely feel more confident about trying new things and challenging myself.

George Wildeman

George has been at TFS since 5th grade. He had a really fun learning experience for one year before moving on to middle school.

TFS Graduate: George Wildeman

I was only in the elementary system for one year. It was a positive and fun experience, with my favorite memory being the Blue Jay Point field trip. 

The TFS Experience: My most memorable experience at TFS has to be Camp Hanes. Camp Hanes is a field trip in 8th grade, where you drive out to a Y camp in the mountains for a few days. During the time at Camp Hanes, you learn basic survival, go on hikes, rock climb, plus more. Camp Hanes was a really good place to build leadership skills and character.

What TFS Means to Me: TFS gave me a chance to improve on my academics. This was especially true for chemistry, which I discovered as a true interest at TFS. Even though COVID impacted our eighth-grade year and changed how we finished our time at TFS, I will definitely remember it as a great place.

I Am TFS: We are the 20th graduating 8th grade class at TFS, and COVID happened during this year – this is a real legacy! I advise future students at TFS to really value the time there because time flies by real fast. Before you know it, this special time in a special place will be over.

Brett Lopez

Brett has been at TFS for nine years and was in preschool for three years.

TFS Graduate: Brett Lopez

“I’ve grown as a person, a friend, and a student as well.”

The TFS Experience: My most memorable experience at TFS was in Math 1 and Math 2 with my great friends and Mrs. Thieken. We had so many good times and good moments in that class, and I’m definitely going to miss that the most.

What TFS Means to Me: It has been great being at TFS, and it is a great family that I have there. It has been a real pleasure to be in such a caring and happy community. I have friends that really care about me if I’m sad or feeling down. I’ve grown as a person, a friend, and a student as well.

I Am TFS: I hope to leave a great and lasting legacy of how much fun you can have even in school. Our legacy can also be sadly the coronavirus class, but we also had very good sports seasons in the fall and winter. I was on the boys’ soccer team in the fall, and even though we didn’t win the championship, I am still proud that we made it to the finals and lost in PKs to a great team.

Noah Langbo

Noah started TFS as a scared first grader, and now he is a part of the spring 2020 graduating class.

TFS Graduate: Noah Langbo

“Over the past two months of distance learning, I have come to realize that it is not the big moments. It’s the small moments we share every day that I miss most…morning prayer laughs with friends at lunch, and connecting with our teachers in person.”

The TFS Experience: TFS teachers are very creative in how they make learning fun. In the fifth grade, we played a year-long Game of Life, where we had to make real-life decisions. We wrote resumes to apply for jobs, managed a checkbook to pay rent, insurance, bills, and taxes. I remember the first thing that I did with my money was buy a sports car. My parents were mortified when I told them and thankful for the early life lesson.

What TFS Means to Me: Every day, I am fortunate to help with Morning Prayer. My goal is to bring excitement about the day ahead. I hope that the enthusiasm will inspire students to do more, give more, and spread positivity. That sense of purpose and community is what allows us to grow strong academically. I feel like my teachers really see me; they know my goals and want to help me succeed. We are pushed at TFS to be strong students that advocate for ourselves. But our teachers also recognize that we are more than just students.

I Am TFS: We are taught at TFS that we all have gifts and that it is our job to find those gifts and use them for the betterment of others. I have tried to do just that. It makes me excited yet sad to know I will be somewhere else next year. But I will carry the Franciscan spirit with me. To put others before myself, serve others, those around the world and the ones sitting next to me, spread kindness, act with integrity, work hard, and be accountable. I am incredibly grateful for my Catholic education; it has been such a gift.

Diana Cantu-Melo

Diana has been a student at TFS for nine years. She also attended St. Francis Preschool since she was two years old, making TFS her home for as long as she can remember.

TFS Graduate: Diana Cantu-Melo

“The community at TFS is unlike none, from teachers, staff, students, and priests; we all care for each other. These years at TFS have been the happiest in my life.”

The TFS Experience: My most memorable experience at TFS was the 8th grade Washington DC trip. I certainly enjoyed walking around and learning about the nation’s capital with my peers and teachers from TFS. It was a bonding experience for teachers and students. One of my favorite parts was when Ft. Jim Sabak gave us a tour of the monuments in the National Mall. It was wonderful to see the historian’s side of him and it will be an unforgettable experience!

What TFS Means to Me: Being a student at TFS, I have learned so many important lessons that I will apply to my whole life. The teachers and priests have all been amazing role models whose examples have been an inspiration to me. The community at TFS is unlike none, from teachers, staff, students, and priests; we all care for each other. These years at TFS have been the happiest in my life, and for that, I am very thankful.

I Am TFS: The circumstances of this 8th grade graduating class are different than the rest of the eighth-grade classes. We did not expect the remaining school year to be virtual, but we adjusted to it. We hope to leave our legacy as the class who was faced with a change and is still standing. Our graduation is going to be different, as we will not have any huge celebrations or get-together. But we still made it! Our handling of this situation shows that when faced with larger challenges in high school, we can overcome them!

Libby Fix

Libby has been a part of the Franciscan family since Pre-K and feels prepared for the next chapter. 

TFS Graduate: Libby Fix

“I really enjoyed the teachers at TFS, the good, and bad. Everyone was different, but I liked the way they all taught. They always helped me and answered my questions.” 

The TFS Experience:  I will miss the field trips the most; they were always fun and informational. But my favorite memory was when we won the TFS soccer championship, and I was on the team!

What TFS Means to Me: TFS has helped me grow in my confidence. The kind and generous community, daily gatherings, and faith have prepared me to become a more open person who can relate to others from all backgrounds. When I first got to TFS, I was shy, now I’m more comfortable speaking and leading.

I Am TFS: The pandemic has changed everything and made our leaving feel unreal because we’re leaving without closure. I miss the many end-of-the-year ceremonies with our teams and clubs. Still, I hope me and my class is remembered as one of the best; likable, generous, and kind. I hope I am not only missed as a person but as a great soccer player.

Anna Grieco

Anna came to TFS in August 2017 in the 6th grade.

Anna Grieco

“I believe I’ve grown through the years with the help of TFS academically, personally, and spiritually.”

The TFS Experience: My most memorable experience at TFS was the 7th grade field day. It was hot, but it was so much fun to have fun with my friends and get Kona Ice! On top of that, I was also able to take great pictures at the picture booth!

What TFS Means to Me: Being a student at TFS has really changed my life by introducing me to many different leadership opportunities, academic clubs, my best friends, and favorite teachers! I believe I’ve grown through the years with the help of TFS academically, personally, and spiritually.

I Am TFS: As one of the 100 graduating 8th-graders, I hope to leave a legacy that we were very kind and always willing to help others. For example, we were very excited to do the service project where we packaged meals for people suffering from natural disasters!

Until We Meet Again

As our students move out into the world to pursue their dreams, we know that the values and family they gained at TFS will go with them.

“Some have been here since kindergarten, and some have been here only for this year, but the class of 2020 are hard workers, kind of heart, and appreciative of others. I am amazed at the thoughtful and patient way they have dealt with how their milestone year has been changed; their sense of self and perspective on all that has happened is mature beyond their years. While these strange conditions do not allow us to recognize them as we have traditionally celebrated our eighth-grade class, we will take time, as best we can, to appreciate all they have been to TFS. They are leaders, mentors, and the personification of the reputation for scholarship, faith, and considerate service the students of The Franciscan School have always engendered, writ especially large this year. We are so proud of all they have become!” said Principal Mike Watson.

The Franciscan School faculty and staff are grateful for the time we spent with each of the 100 eighth-grade graduates. We are excited to see the community leaders, changemakers, and professionals that they will grow into. And we look forward to the day they return to visit as alumni.

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