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For April, our emphasis will be on compassion which means we show empathy and concern for others. We have a desire to serve locally and globally.


Compassion is a genuine sympathy for hardship or suffering that other people are experiencing, and a desire to ease that pain. The following story I believe hits at the very heart of compassion.


The year was 1944 and it was Christmas Eve, during the Battle of the Bulge in Germany.  A young boy, and his mother were alone in their cabin in the forest, safe from the icy cold, and they thought, from the American enemy soldiers hiding in the countryside.

 

Mrs. Vincken and her son, Fritz, heard someone at the door. She opened it to find a group of US soldiers. One had been wounded. She set aside her fears of execution for helping the enemy and let the soldiers in her house. She did not speak English, and they spoke no German, but they were able to talk in French.

 

Not long after the soldiers had settled in, there was a loud and sharp knock at the door. Mrs. Vincken was afraid that it might be German soldiers, so she opened the door carefully. She was right. There was a very high likelihood that if the German soldiers had no mercy, that she would be shot for harboring the Americans, even if it had been only for those few moments.

 

The brave woman stepped outside and told the German soldiers that she would serve them a hot dinner but that it was Christmas Eve, and she had guests. She asked the Germans to leave their guns in her shed because, even though they might not like her visitors, Christmas Eve was a night of peace. She then took the guns of the Americans and hid them away as well.


The German soldiers, having honored her request, stepped inside. The atmosphere was awkward at first, until one of the German soldiers, a medic, began dressing the wounds of one of the Americans.

 

Fritz Vincken recounted the incident in an interview with WII History Network: “Then we added more ingredients to our stew and invited these enemies to sit down together for dinner. One of the German soldiers, an ex-medical student, fixed the wounded American and then Mother read from the Bible and declared that there would be at least one night of peace in this war — Christmas night in the Ardennes Forest. After a good night’s rest, they said their goodbyes and went on their way. The German soldiers told the Americans, which way their camp was and gave them a compass to find their way.”

 

Fritz credits his mother’s personality and generosity when asked why the German soldiers did not turn her in. “I think it was my mom’s personality and her persuasiveness to have them rest for one peaceful night. There was a place to stay, hot food, and shelter from the cold and they appreciated that.”

 

Mrs. Vincken never saw any of those soldiers again, but Fritz eventually was reunited with two of the Americans. He now lives in Hawaii.

 

Said Fritz, “Many years have gone since that bloodiest of all wars, but the memories of that night in the Ardennes never left me. The inner strength of a single woman, who, by her wits and intuition, prevented potential bloodshed, taught me the practical meaning of the words: ‘Goodwill Toward Mankind’ . . .  I remember mother and those seven young soldiers, who met as enemies and parted as friends, right in the middle of the battle of the Bulge.”


Compassion arises through empathy and is characterized by actions. Mrs. Vincken’s compassion that night brought comfort and peace to a small group of men known to be enemies. Her example not only had an impact on those soldiers, but it would have a profound and lasting effect on her son. You see a simple act of compassion such as providing a hot meal to strangers, showing a smile, or just giving a kind word to someone you don’t even know can make a world of difference in someone’s life and in yours!


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Apr 08, 2021 at 4:50 PM
  

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Jordan in 1985 at UNC basketball school. As a lifelong Tar Heel fan, I followed Jordan's career at UNC, then on to Chicago, even though I'm a Lakers fan, as well as outside of basketball. I believe his journey in basketball and in life speaks to the very essence of confidence.


The year was 1978, Michael Jordan tried out for his high school’s varsity basketball team, but at 5’11 he was told he was too short to play at that level as a sophomore and remained on junior varsity. He worked constantly on his game to improve his skills and during his JV season would score 40 or more points in several games.


Over the next summer, he would grow four inches. He spent countless hours working on his basketball skills. The next two years of high school he would average over 25 points per game, over 12 rebounds, and six assists per game. He was named a high school All-American and played in the annual McDonald’s All-American game where he scored 30 points.


He was highly recruited by several major universities with prominent basketball programs such as Duke, Syracuse, and Virginia, but ultimately landed at North Carolina.


He had a phenomenal freshmen year. He would hit the game winning shot against Georgetown in the national championship game and was named ACC Freshman of the Year. The work he put into honing his skills is what gave him the confidence to take that monumental shot against Georgetown. Jordan later described this shot as the major turning point in his basketball career.

Never being satisfied, Jordan continued to put in the work to get stronger and more consistent in overall skills. The next two years, he was selected to the NCAA All-America First Team. He would be honored with the Naismith and Wooden awards in 1984, his last year of college basketball.


That same spring Jordan was selected as the third pick in the NBA draft by the Chicago Bulls. He would go on to a storied career in the NBA winning 6 NBA titles with the Bulls and several Player of the Year awards. He is arguably the greatest player of all-time or as you all have come to know, the GOAT.


What separated Michael from other players was the level of confidence he developed. He worked constantly on perfecting his skills, growing his knowledge of the game, and enhancing his thought processes. Because he had worked so much on his game, he knew he was going to make the next shot or make the next stop against an opposing player. He learned to turn failures into positives. One of his most notable quotes describes how he thinks, “I have failed over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.” He developed a perspective that his failures were really stepping stones to another level of success and his confidence grew as he overcame his setbacks and failures. 


What we learn from Michael is that confidence is linked to our attitude and our actions.  The attitude of failing forward, never giving up, and staying consistent in your actions toward skills and knowledge you want to gain.  Regardless of what skill sets you’re trying to develop, it will take real concerted and consistent efforts on your part to develop that kind of confidence. It will take overcoming setbacks and delaying gratification for better results and ultimately greater success.  You just have to be patient with the process just like Mike!


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Mar 06, 2021 at 4:14 PM
  

We generally think of initiative as recognizing and doing what needs to be done before being asked. And that's true. But initiative is so much more. Initiative believes in the possibilities of opportunity; it sees opportunity where others see barriers. Initiative means going the extra mile.


The following story is a great example of how taking initiative can change the course of one’s life and the lives of others.


The year was 1949. Dorothy Johnson Vaughan became the first African American supervisor at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (the predecessor of NASA) when she was promoted to manager of the West Area Computers. This work group was made up mostly of African American female mathematicians who worked at the Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Vaughan’s title opened the door for her to collaborate with other well-known computer operators and gave her access to see future plans of the organization. 


In 1958, the NACA officially became NASA. During that time, Vaughan realized that NASA was going to move into machine computing with computer programming. They began bringing in large computers from IBM.  Seeing that these computers would likely replace her and her team of mathematicians, she took the initiative to learn FORTRAN programming language.  She not only taught herself this complex language, but she also took the time to teach her team.


In 1961 she officially became supervisor of the digital programming center and brought her team with her.  She made significant contributions to the space program through her work on the Scout Launch Vehicle Program and the launch of John Glenn into orbit. Had Dorothy Vaughan not taken the initiative to teach herself and others this new language, she and her team would have been fired. The Scout Launch Vehicle Program may have taken longer to get off the ground. It may have taken NASA longer to get man into orbit. Her initiative changed the course of her life, her team, and essentially that of the NASA space program.


Vaughan’s work and the work of Mary Jackson and Katherine Johnson were featured in the 2016 movie Hidden Figures


What can we learn from Vaughan’s story? She saw an opportunity and seized the moment by taking initiative. She saw possibilities where others may have seen barriers and she went the extra mile to affect change.


As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Unless you try to do something beyond what you have mastered, you will never grow.”


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Feb 07, 2021 at 1:40 PM
  

This month, our character focus is on responsibility which means being held accountable for how our words and actions affect others as well as ourselves.


The following story from the Titanic demonstrates the great lengths people have gone to fulfill their responsibilities.


The year was 1912 and all the talk in the world, especially in Europe was about the Titanic, a luxury ship designed to ferry people back and forth across the Atlantic.  However, as you know on its maiden voyage, the unsinkable Titanic struck an iceberg just before midnight on April 14, 1912 and would subsequently sink to the bottom of the Atlantic at 2:20 a.m. on April 15. 


There were 2,224 passengers on board with over 900 crew.  But, there were only enough lifeboats to carry about 1100 people. The decision-makers for Titanic irresponsibly decided that because the ship was considered unsinkable, they didn’t need as many.  They opted for more deck space rather than keeping the safety of all passengers and crew in mind.  That decision cost lives as over 1500 people perished that night into the icy Atlantic Ocean.


Of the 900 crew members, 25 of them were engineers responsible for maintaining the inner-workings of the ship including the pumps designed to control any possible flooding. 

As the Titanic was sinking, passengers were being loaded onto the lifeboats by the deck crew. During this time, the engineering crew remained at their posts to work the pumps, controlling the flooding as much as possible. Their actions ensured the power stayed on during the evacuation and allowed the wireless radio system to keep sending distress signals. These brave men kept at their work as it was their responsibility.  They helped save more than 700 people even though it would cost them their own lives.


This story shows how an irresponsible decision can negatively impact the lives of hundreds of people.  The story also demonstrates how following through on your responsibilities can make a major positive impact, especially when you are putting the welfare of others above yourself.  The key factor here is that your responsibilities impact others one way or another and not just you.


Take a moment to think about what you are responsible.  How would fulfilling those responsibilities or choosing not to fulfill them impact others?  As Abraham Lincoln once said, “You cannot escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today.”


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Jan 10, 2021 at 1:02 PM
  

This month, our character focus is on Integrity. Integrity means that our daily interactions with ourselves and with others are led by honesty, trustworthiness, and sincerity. The following historical story speaks to the value of integrity and establishing trust with others.


The year was 1854. Jacob Hamblin was a Mormon pioneer sent from Illinois to help settle southern Utah as more and more people sought to move west.  Hamblin quickly developed a friendship with the Native Americans who lived there.  He did business with them regularly and they knew they could trust him to treat them honestly and fairly.  He was known as a man of integrity by his new friends because of his consistent actions.


One day he sent his son to obtain blankets from a Native American man, in exchange for a pony.  The man offered a pile of blankets after examining the pony, but the son, wanting to prove what a good business man he could be, refused the offer, saying he wanted more. 


The man continued to add blankets to the pile until the son agreed to the trade.  However, when the boy returned home, he found his father was not proud of his business skills.  The boy had taken more than the pony was worth, and he promptly sent the son to return half the blankets.


The Native American man, when the boy explained sheepishly what he was there to do, laughed.  He had known Hamblin would make his son return the extra blankets. 


You see integrity is actionable. It’s not just based on your words, but also your actions. If you want to become trustworthy, you must do things that build trust with others consistently over time.  And that is the essence of integrity.


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Nov 29, 2020 at 1:55 PM
  

November is National Gratitude Month and also our character focus this month. Having gratitude means we express humility and thankfulness for the people, opportunities, gifts, and talents afforded us.


The following story I believe speaks volumes about having a mindset of gratitude.


The year was 1933. The Great Depression had reached its lowest point as nearly 15 million Americans, 20 percent of the population, were unemployed and over half of the nation’s banks had failed. Others who remained employed had their wages reduced which also decreased their buying power. Soup kitchens, breadlines, and a growing population of homeless people were common across many cities and towns in the US.


Despite all of these challenges, many Americans learned how to make do with what they had. They developed an attitude of gratitude and learned how to be grateful for what they did have and not what they were going without.


We have learned throughout our history that it’s not what you don’t have, but what you do with what you have that counts the most. That type of perspective only happens when you have gratitude. Folks during the Great Depression may have eaten the same type of meal for days on end, but they learned to be grateful that they had food. 


Marty Bryan, who is in his late 80s, from Columbus, Ohio shared, “I lived through The Great Depression and can remember eating beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner when I was four years old but at least we had something to eat. Others didn’t.” 


Another resident from Columbus, Ohio, Maxine Bartelt, age 87, recalls. “Eating was different in those days, too. We didn’t come to a table and complain because the food wasn’t what we liked. There were not many choices. We ate or went without. Some days bread and gravy tasted very good.”


The point here is this. We all have challenges and struggles we have to deal with just like right now going through this pandemic.  And it can be easy to get down because of those challenges. But it’s during those challenging times where a focus on being truly grateful for what we have will get us through. Because no matter what issues we may have, there is always someone out there in the world who has even greater challenges. 


Take a moment right now and think about who or what you are grateful for in your life. Have you shown appreciation for what you’re grateful for? Have you told others that you are grateful for them? For me personally, I am truly grateful, thankful, and joyful that I have the opportunity to serve as your principal every day. I am grateful and appreciative that I have a supportive and loving family at home and a loving, supportive staff I get to work with everyday. 


So for the entire month of November, I encourage you to take the gratitude challenge and post on Twitter and Instagram about someone or something you are grateful for everyday this month. Use #MHSgraditude.


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Nov 01, 2020 at 4:15 PM
  

Our character trait of the month for October is Courage, which is when we demonstrate the bravery and resilience required when approaching uncertainty and change. The following story I believe speaks to the heart of courage.


The year was 1862. To be more exact, it was May 12, 1862 when a 22-year-old slave by the name of Robert Smalls would courageously pull off one of the greatest escapes to freedom in history.


At that time, Union Naval forces had created a blockade around Charleston, South Carolina and Confederate forces had dug in to defend its coastal waters. Robert Smalls was a mulatto slave who had been sailing those waters since his early teens. He was a “wheelman” aboard a gunboat the CSS Planter, a cotton steamer that had been heavily armed to go out into battle the next morning. The Planter was commanded by three white officers and had a crew of eight slaves including Smalls. Smalls was intelligent, resourceful, and a skillful navigator eager to free himself and his family. On May 12, 1862 he saw an opportunity to do just that. Against regulations the three white officers left the ship for the night, leaving Smalls and crew behind which shows how much they trusted Smalls and the crew.


After the officers were gone, Smalls shared his plan with the crew and went into action knowing that if they were caught they would all be shot.   At 2 a.m. on May 13, Smalls put on the captain’s uniform and straw hat to look the part. He and his small crew hoisted the South Carolina and Confederate flags as decoys and began easing the Planter out of the dock right past General Roswell Ripley’s headquarters.  He first stops at West Atlantic Wharf to pick up his wife and children, four other women, three men, and a child.


There were five Confederate harbor points Smalls had to guide the ship through. But Smalls was smart, over time he had studied every signal given by his captain so he was well prepared for this moment. At approximately 4:30 a.m. Smalls had sailed past the last point at Fort Sumter when the alarms sounded, but by that time, the Planter was out of gun range.


He had one more obstacle to overcome, the U.S. Naval forces. After sailing past Fort Sumter, they pulled down the two flags and hoisted a white bed sheet brought on board by his wife as a sign of surrender. However, it was still before sunrise and John Frederick Nickels, the acting captain of the USS Onward, could not see the white flag, so he ordered for the “ports to open” meaning prepare to fire. Just before the order to fire, the sun came up and one lookout spotted the white “flag” preserving the Planter and its crew. Smalls’ turned the ship over to the U.S. Navy. His escape plan had succeeded and his family was finally free.


Smalls would share with Naval intelligence the captain’s code book containing Confederate signals and a map of the mines and torpedoes laid in Charleston’s harbor. He shared his extensive knowledge of the Charleston waterways and military configurations. His valuable information allowed for Union forces to take over Coles Island and its string of batteries without a fight. 


Smalls would not only gain freedom for his family, but would go to serve in the U.S. Navy until 1868 when he began a career in politics. His first stint was in the South Carolina House of Representatives, then the state senate. In 1875, he would be elected to the U.S House of Representatives for South Carolina’s 5th district and then the 7th district. 


While Smalls exhibited great courage that night of the escape, he had been preparing for that night long before. He had the courage and the foresight to prepare for that moment. He knew the uncertainty and the dangers he would face yet he planned for it anyway. 


The point of his story can be summed up in the following quote from an unknown source. 

“Sometimes life can be challenging and you can feel as though you are not getting anywhere. However, you have to remember that every courageous step counts and if you take small steps every day, one day you will get there.”


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Oct 04, 2020 at 2:02 PM
  

In honor of Hispanic Heritage month, I thought it all too fitting to share a story of respect for the first Hispanic female astronaut in space, Ellen Ochoa.


The year was 1993.  April 8, 1993 to be exact. Ellen Ochoa and four other fellow astronauts would board the Space Shuttle Discovery for a 9-day mission.  Ochoa was a mission specialist aboard the Discovery.  This mission was officially called ATLAS-2: the Atmospheric Laboratory for Applications and Science-2, which was designed to collect data on the relationship between the sun's energy output and Earth's middle atmosphere and how these factors affect the ozone layer.


The crew also made numerous radio contacts to schools around the world using Shuttle Amateur Radio Experiment II, called SAREX II, including a brief radio contact with Russian Mir space station, the first ever such contact between Shuttle and Mir using amateur radio equipment.


Ochoa not only made history on April 8, 1993, but she would go on to serve on three other missions logging over 1000 hours in space, over 41 days.  Her last mission was in 2002. 


Ochoa’s paternal grandparents were originally from Sorona, Mexico. A state that borders Arizona and California.  She grew up in La Mesa, California and developed a keen interest in math, science, and music.  After high school, she would graduate from San Diego State University with a degree in physics in 1980. While in college, she played the flute for two years as part of the university marching band and for five years as a member of the university wind ensemble. In 1981 and 1985 respectively, she earned her master’s and doctorate in Electrical Engineering from Stanford.  This is where she began her research work on optical systems.


Her work in optical and computer systems for automated space exploration is what earned her respect and recognition in a field normally dominated by men.  The systems she developed while at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico and then with a team of researchers at NASA’s Ames Research Division in California, would prove to have important applications for data gathering and evaluating equipment safety.  The work in two of her missions provided valuable data about the damage to the Earth’s ozone layer in the mid-90s. 


Mrs. Ochoa’s contributions to science, and in particular space exploration, garnered her much recognition and respect. Over the course of her career, she has received seven awards from NASA, in addition to the Women in Aerospace Outstanding Achievement Award, the Hispanic Engineer Albert Baez Award for Outstanding Technical Contribution to Humanity, and the Hispanic Heritage Leadership Award. Other awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Exceptional Service Medal, Outstanding Leadership Medal, and four Space Flight Medals. In 1999, she was selected by then President Clinton to serve on the Presidential Commission on the Celebration of Women in American History. 


She currently serves as Director of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.  In 2018, she was inducted into the International Air and Space Hall of Fame. She also has three schools in the greater Los Angeles area named in her honor. She also has schools named for her in the states of Washington, Texas, and Oklahoma.  Outside of her current research for NASA, she also gives back by traveling the country speaking to a variety of groups, many of whom are students.


Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Sep 13, 2020 at 4:42 PM
  

Attention senior students and parents/guardians: please see the important information below for updates regarding our Senior Awards event. 

Senior Awards provides us with the opportunity to recognize our graduating seniors receiving honors, awards, and scholarships from Lee-Davis High School, alumni and families, universities, and state and national organizations. Seniors are recognized for their many special gifts and talents, from academic distinction to athletic excellence, for personal character, dedication to service, and more. 

As you know, in light of recent events our school buildings remain closed for the duration of the 2019-2020 school year. Due to these unfortunate circumstances, we will be unable to hold our traditional in-house ceremonies. However, we  still want to recognize our seniors’ accomplishments by showcasing their achievements through a Senior Awards program document that will be distributed on Wednesday, May 20th, via Social Media, Schoology, and e-connect messages to our community and students. This document will include a listing of all school-specific senior scholarship and award winners, Hanover Scholars recipients, and other outside scholarships/awards received by the graduating Class of 2020, as reported to us by the May 1st deadline. 

  • Scholarship recipients (for school-specific scholarships) will be contacted via Schoology around May 20, 2020 and provided with a “Scholarship Recipient Information Form.” This form will request recipient contact information, college/postsecondary mailing address, and other pertinent information needed to process and send their scholarship funds to the appropriate institution.
  • Outside Scholarships:  If a senior has received a scholarship award and/or grant from the college they will attend or from an outside organization not related to L-DHS (e.g. military, businesses, etc.), they must email a copy of the official award letter to their Career Counselor, Mrs. Corbin, via Schoology or at acorbin@hcps.us confirming the scholarship no later than Friday, May 1 if they want to be acknowledged for it in the Senior Awards Program. Along with the official award letter, please email the dollar amount and the name of the scholarship that you would like to be included in the program.
  • Additionally, we want to recognize seniors that have received their Eagle Scout rank by the Boy Scouts or the Gold Award by the Girl Scouts. In order to do so, they must email Mrs. Corbin, Career Counselor, via Schoology or at acorbin@hcps.us with official documentation of their achievement by Friday, May 1.

Any Outside Scholarship and/or Award information received after Friday, May 1 will not be included in the Senior Awards Program or in other forms of communication.  Please contact Mrs. Corbin, Career Counselor, at acorbin@hcps.us, with any questions. 

Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Apr 21, 2020 at 5:20 PM
  

We know that you may have many questions about graduation, from requirements to commencement exercises. Last week, Dr. Gill sent out the following information to these questions that we hope will help to ease and address many of your concerns.

Graduation Requirements:

The Superintendent of Public Instruction has shared with us his commitment that students on-track for graduation prior to the closing of schools will graduate. More specific details are included below. In addition, please note that all students, including seniors, are expected to complete all Learn-from-Home assignments for the remainder of the school year. More details regarding these requirements are forthcoming.

The following graduation requirements can be waived:

  • Students currently enrolled in a course for which they need a standard or verified credit in order to graduate;
  • Students who have successfully completed a course required for graduation, but have not earned the associated verified credit;
  • Students who have not completed the student-selected test;
  • Students who are currently enrolled in or have previously completed a course leading to a Career and Technical Education (CTE) credential necessary for a Standard Diploma but have not yet earned the credential.

The Code of Virginia outlines several credit-based graduation requirements. We are working diligently with the Virginia Department of Education to ensure we adhere to the processes necessary to request a waiver to the following requirements:

  • Students who have not completed a United States and Virginia history course;
  • Students who have not completed a fine or performing arts or career and technical education course;
  • Students in the second of sequential courses;
  • Students who have not completed an economics and personal finance course.

The following graduation requirements will require action by the General Assembly in order to be waived:

  • Students who have not completed training in emergency first aid, CPR, and the use of automated external defibrillators, including hands-on practice of the skills necessary to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation; and
  • Students who have not completed a virtual course. (This does not include the Learn-from-Home initiative currently being offered by HCPS.)

If you have concerns about whether or not you/your students are on-track for graduation, please contact your school counselor or administrator who can assist you in reviewing your progress and help you finish strong.  We are eager to work with individual students and families who have concerns about fulfilling graduation requirements.

Graduation Ceremonies:

We are committed to celebrating the accomplishments of our senior class. Our sincere desire is to hold traditional graduation ceremonies for all four high schools. While we cannot predict when the Governor will lift the current restrictions on large gatherings, we are still maintaining our reservation at the VCU Siegel Center for Saturday, June 13.

If this is not possible, we hope to hold ceremonies later in the summer, if permitted. However, if restrictions remain in place longer than anticipated and in-person ceremonies are not possible, our team is already actively exploring all possibilities to honor and recognize our graduates. We will share further details as we know more.

We hope these updates will help to address the many questions and concerns you may have regarding graduation. We will continue to provide you with regular updates regarding graduation and a variety of other topics as they become available. If you have additional questions that were not addressed, please contact your school counselor or administrator. Please also visit the school division’s website for the most up-to-date information.

Keep It Safe!

 

Posted by cestevens@hcps.us  On Mar 29, 2020 at 3:53 PM
  
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