I recently interviewed a 17-year-old Manassas Park High School student who is trying to get Michelle Obama to speak at her graduation ceremony in June.
Her reason? To put her hometown, Manassas Park, on the map.
I admire this young lady, Bianca Bonilla. It is profound the way that even young people have caught wind of the stigma that surrounds Manassas Park.
Bonilla said students from other areas have asked her if Manassas Park is, "the ghetto."
She realizes people think Manassas Park is just a town you, "drive through" to get to some bigger, more desirable location.
I have witnessed some of the same attitudes and opinions the teen said she has encountered.
I mean, what is it with Manassas Park? Why do people look down at our little city?
When I think about it, I guess every place has its identity issues.
New York City is still looked at as "the murder capital of world."
The people of Dallas call their sister city, Fort Worth, "Cow Town" because, to them, it's not as big and sophisticated and is therefore, a land of the cows.
I've heard people call Washington D.C. "Hollywood for the Ugly." Whatever that means.
From what I've gathered in the past two months I've been in town, the bad reputation of Manassas Park—and Manassas for that matter—goes back several years.
A long-time Manassas resident and shop owner told me last week that many Northern Virginians regarded Manassas as, "a joke" for many years.
I'm not sure what did or didn't happen, but something about the two cities has put a bad taste in people's mouths that they just can't get out.
Maybe they need some good (and expensive) water from the Upper Occoquan Service Authority.
OK, I understand that Manassas Park schools weren't always the best.
Thomas DeBolt, former superintendent of Manassas Park schools, told me that much.
He said there was a time when no one could sell a house in Manassas Park; it was just that undesirable.
He told me that the children were being cheated and that's why he and others set out to do a complete overhaul of the district. Ten years later, their successes are very apparent.
And educational successes lead to successes elsewhere.
Any good real estate agent knows that good schools attract residential development and homebuyers.
So now that we have good schools, beautiful homes, a great recreational facility and a low crime rate, when are people going to cut us some slack?
I'm with Bonilla. I think having Michelle Obama speak at the Manassas Park High gradation will put the city, "on the map" and get us a little respect.
So if you are like me and Bonilla and you love Manassas Park, go to the Facebook page, "Manassas Park High School for Michelle Obama" and show your support by "liking" the page.