By Marianne E. Weaver
Prince William Living recognizes greatness within our community: organizations giving back and individuals
making a difference. In this issue we introduce you to nine high school students who are well on their way to becoming extraordinary adults. Although their activities and passions vary, they all share one common goal: making Prince William a better place for the generations of students who follow in their footsteps.
Chi Chau’s father died when she was 2. Along with her mother and sister, she left China and entered middle school in the United States.
“They did not know any English, and Chi took it upon herself to be the translator for the family,” said Michaella Beatty, C. D. Hylton High School counselor. “Chi has harnessed her knowledge of learning English as a newcomer to the country and has mentored and tutored young children to help ease their transition.”
Chau is a senior at Hylton High School, where she is the captain of the girls’ tennis team.
“She has grown tremendously through her participation in the team, not only in teamwork, but in leadership,” said Beatty. “She has risen to the challenge of being a captain and accepted the faith that her coaches placed in her with confidence.”
Chau is also an active member of the National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, Junior Civitans and environmental club. She has volunteered to clean streams throughout Prince William, tutors students after school, and holds down a part-time job. Currently, she is learning Chinese so she can return to
China and teach students who cannot afford an education.
“Chi is a brilliant example of a passionate student who wants to leave a positive impact,” said Beatty. “Chi is very kind in all of her interactions, and she is a cheerful member of our school. I am honored to be able to work with her.”
Mary Kate Gareau
The eldest of eight children, Mary Kate Gareau is a role model to not just her younger siblings, but also their friends and teammates.
“Mary Kate is polite, articulate and driven; but she is always willing to put others before self,” said Ellyn Wynne. “She is committed to her family, friends and faith. She is a role model for young teens as well as her peers.”
Gareau is an Irish dancer at McGrath Morgan Academy of Irish dance and qualified to compete at the world championships. At age 12, she volunteered to help teach new students.
“As the eldest of eight children, she is a natural with my youngest students,” said Lauren McGrath Dutton, TCRG and owner of the studio. “One of the things I admire most is her ability to maintain and cultivate these relationships as those beginners grow into peers. For example, Mary Kate has worked with our 12-year-old national champion since her first day in the studio. Mary Kate was always on hand to tie shoes, demonstrate steps, and offer some encouraging words. Six years later, Mary Kate is still there, running warm-ups and offering pre-competition pep talks. Now the two often share a stage … recently, at the 2019 White House Shamrock ceremony!”
Gareau is homeschooled, and a member of the Fairfax Homeschool Athletic Association Hawks basketball and track teams and Prince William Girls Fastpitch Softball team.
“Mary Kate is kind and generous with her time,” said Wynne. “Her maturity and understanding of what is truly important is motivating. I am always amazed at how she always does the right thing, even when no one is looking and her parents aren’t around. She is a role model to all her siblings, cousins, fellow dancers and teammates.”
Hylton High School senior Gabriela Gutierrez-Aramayo’s family moved from Bolivia in 2016 in search of better educational opportunities. And according to Michaella Beatty, C. D. Hylton High School counselor, she has taken full advantage of all the school has to offer.
“She has not wasted this gift and has challenged herself with difficult academic classes on top of learning English at the same time,” said Beatty. “Gabriela understands that a leader must listen and show by example, which I have seen working with her in ESOL club. Gabriela invests in the lives of younger students,
and mentors students who are new to the country. She is a great example for these students because she was in their shoes just a few years ago.”
Gutierrez-Aramayo combined her love of art with her dedication to the ESOL club and created posters to recruit new members. For her efforts and dedication, she was elected president of the club. She is also a member of the National Honor Society, German club, art club and National Art Honor Society. She is an ESOL Ambassador and connects students new to the country and school and offers for them to eat lunch with her on their first day. She volunteers at the Workhouse Arts Center as an assistant to the artists in residence.
“It is a pleasure for me to see Gabriela put her classroom learning into projects she works on outside of school,” said Beatty. “She has won quite a few awards for her artwork. She is humble and graceful in accepting these awards. She gives back to her community so regularly, that she does not keep track.
Gabriela impresses me because she has a heart of giving and does not keep tabs or do things just to get recognition for them. Gabriela leads by quiet example to her peers.”
In and out of the water, Potomac High School senior Jordan Mumford has taken the initiative to lead the community.
“Jordan is a dynamic individual with a positive attitude and a tireless work ethic,” said Coach Julie Ericson. “Moreover, her talents and leadership qualities have been instrumental toward a variety of domains, which have made her classmates, teammates and community friends around her grow.”
Mumford has been a member of the Future Business Leaders of America for four years. She is a member of the National Honor Society and serves as the liaison for the club and school administration. She has coordinated volunteer hour activities for the club members.
Outside of school, she volunteers her time teaching swimming lessons.
“Her passion to ensure there is no child left behind at the pool has positively affected many families. These kids are able to get the vital lessons on how to swim strokes and what to do if they or someone around them has a water emergency,” said Ericson. “Her gestures make our county pools a safer place, provide children and parents with confidence they need to feel comfortable in and out of the water. Anytime someone shares their knowledge with kids, it not only benefits them, it makes our community a better place to live.”
Hylton High School senior Allison Smith has made a habit of putting service before self.
As a member of the Girl Scouts, she participated in many local service projects. To earn her Cadette Girl Scout Silver Award Project, she worked in partnership with the Montclair Public Library and served as a program aide at Ports of Prince William summer day camp in Triangle.
“Having served as camp director for Ports of Prince William Day Camp for 20 consecutive years, I can honestly say that Allison’s service to the young campers during several summers was not only beneficial for the camp, the campers and the program, but was a huge help to me as well,” said Karen Hammack. “She was an excellent role model for young people, worked well with camp staff and is a wonderful young adult.”
Smith developed her Girl Scout Silver Award project using the theme “books and reading” and set up book boxes in high-traffic areas to collect books for local children. She routinely shares her time and talents at the Montclair library welcoming her community and young children to the library in an effort to promote a love of reading.
Smith has achieved honor roll status throughout high school. She is co-captain of the Hylton dance team and a member of the National Honor Society. She has worked on the 2020 yearbook and holds down a part-time job at the Montclair Family Restaurant.
Jordyn A. Strange
Jordyn is a Christian who “walks the walk,” said her father, Theodore R. Strange, III. “She is a great example of hard work, perseverance, faith, consistence,” he said. “She’s compassionate and she tries her best to help others in need.”
Strange is a senior at Christ Chapel Academy and is poised to graduate at the top of her class. She is the president of the Student Government Association, chaplain for the school’s National Honor Society and captain of both the girls’ varsity basketball and track teams. She shares her love of these sports and volunteers with the Prince William County Special Olympics Track & Field Team and volunteered with the Special Olympic Basketball Tournament.
Strange is active in the community. She is president of the Prince William County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Youth Council and is a member of the Teen Council for Girls Inspired and Ready to Lead. She is an ambassador for She Rocks the World, leader in training for Leadership Prince William, assistant recording secretary and NAACP chair for Top Teens of America; she is a huddle leader at the Fellowship of Christian Athletes’ Power Camp; and was a finalist in the Prince William County Leadership National Council On Youth for 2019-2020.
Strange is a Senior Girl Scout and received her Girl Scout Gold Award in 2019-2020, an honor earned by less than 5% of all Girl Scouts. The project she developed encouraged middle school girls to pursue their interests in STEAM fields.
“She is a great mentor to young ladies,” her father said. “She provides advice and counsel to her peers and younger youth, both male and female, and she is a positive role model and presence in the classroom, as well as on the sports courts and fields.”
Potomac Senior High Jada Thomas leads by example.
“Her actions and good choices encourage her peers to do the same,” said Coach Julie Ericson. “She is kind and generous and exemplifies leadership skills that will continue to be a part of her success.”
Thomas has been a member of the Key Club for four years and has logged more than 150 volunteer hours. She is also a member of the Math and Science National Honor Society. “She has taken her knowledge and time to many elementary schools in Prince William County and taught math and science to children,” said Ericson, who noted that Thomas is not paid to tutor. “Her tutoring is a key ingredient for children’s success. She has really changed the academic trajectory and growth for many students. Not only has she taught them academics, she has taught them the confidence to be able to succeed and the importance in believing in themselves. These kinds of lessons take young children and makes them more responsible, increases their intelligence and provides them with a positive self-image.”
Thomas has been a member of the varsity swim team throughout high school and has served as captain since her sophomore year. She managed the field hockey team and served as a captain of the lacrosse team.
“She is well respected by her peers and teaching staff,” said Ericson. “She is an effective leader and mentor.”
Battlefield High School senior Sean Trettel might have started life with some major health challenges, but he has not allowed anything to hinder his achievements.
Trettel was born with five major heart defects for which he has had four heart surgeries so far, as well as a dozen other procedures, said his mother Donel Trettel. “He struggled with major health issues until his last heart surgery four years ago stabilized his situation. He then had his thyroid removed 18 months ago due to genetic thyroid cancer,” she said. “He has faced these challenges with a calm and confident determination that has inspired not only his peers, but also his doctors and other adults who know his story.”
Trettel is an active member of the Battlefield Christian Student Association. As a junior, he was the outreach officer and this year serves as president. He has been a member of the Key Club and was inducted into the National Honor Society as a junior.
Throughout high school, Trettel has held leadership positions with Chapel Springs Church youth group, The Source. Last year, he started a leadership training team for middle school boys. Along with other high school members, Trettel mentors the younger boys to grow in their faith and be bold in Christian outreach and helping others.
“Despite his major health challenges, Sean hasn’t let these issues define him,” said his mother. “He is a leader and a strong, outspoken young man with a purpose for his life.”
Trettel is taking online classes with Liberty University where he will be attending in the fall as part of Liberty’s Honors Program.
Potomac High School senior Dania Torres is focused on the future, both her own and the next generation.
“Dania reaches out to middle school and elementary school-aged children to teach them the importance of community,” said Coach Julie Ericson. “She is an excellent role model in the classroom and on the athletic field. She leads by example with her actions and dedication to her grades and activities. She has volunteered countless hours to our local schools providing tutoring, guidance and encouragement to the students.”
Torres has been an active member of the NJROTC since her freshman year and was named Lieutenant First Supply Officer for the 2019-2020 school year. She is also the chairperson for Leadership Pride Chairperson. She is a member of the Key Club and the Latin Honor Society. During her junior and senior years, she was varsity team captain for both the field hockey and lacrosse teams.
“She takes time out for others,” said Ericson. “She wants to share her knowledge with others, not just academic knowledge: She shares her cultural knowledge, athletic knowledge and her personal values to make our community a welcoming and positive place for all.”
Marianne E. Weaver ([email protected]) is a freelance editor and writer. She earned a BA from the University of Pittsburgh and an MJ from Temple University.