Four energetic and poised teens returned to their roots at a small private school Tuesday evening to tell others how their early education affected their lives and steered their growth.
All four graduated from Manassas Christian School in Manassas Park after the eighth grade—the highest grade level the school offers—and have since continued their education at area public schools.
The students told an intimate group of parents and teachers of the differences they see in private and public education and how they made the transition from one to the other.
Juliane Martin, a junior at Foxcroft School in Middleburg, eased the fears of one parent in the group, who said she was concerned about her children leaving the small private school for a bigger school.
Leaving Manassas Christian for another school was difficult at first, but it’s something she was quickly able to overcome, Juliane said.
“It was a little strange at first, switching schools … but you get over it,” she said.
She used to cry because she missed Manassas Christian and her three close friends who went to school with her, Juliane said. She and her friends would be together all day in school, then go home and spend more time together, she said.
Victoria Unterberger, now a sophomore at Woodbridge Senior High, said when she was in private school, there were students who were close friends, but weren't any cliques.
Because of her early education at MCS, she knows how to handle it when she has problems with her friends or other students at school, Victoria said.
“I know what is morally right,” she said. “ ... I know how to deal with the situation without violence.”
“In public school, kids get away with a lot,” said Brandon Brown, a MCS graduate attending C.D. Hylton High in Dale City. “When you see that, you know to steer clear.”
Brandon said he benefited from the close relationships he had with his private school teachers. When he was a MCS student, he would go to his teachers for help with school work and other matters. Even though he has moved on, he still calls them for help, Brandon said.
“When you come here, it’s like walking into a second house. It’s like going home to home,” he said. “It really is a family here. It’s not like in public school, where you don’t get much attention. You get attention in public school, but you have to sacrifice your after-school time for it.”
Victoria, who came to Manassas Christian in the fourth grade, said having an open relationship with her private school teachers, embolden her to approach her public school teachers, even if some were standoffish.
“I’m not scared to go up and ask questions … that’s how I know I’m going to get ahead. Some students are afraid of being ridiculed by their teachers,” she said.
For Daryll Watson it was his teachers who help cultivate his love for English and poetry.
“I took Latin because I wanted to learn more words,” he said. “This school was a life-changing experience. They really took me in and turned me around.”
In sixth and seventh grade he was really disorganized, but then something clicked when he became an eighth grader, Daryll said.
Not only does he excel in language arts, but he’s also in the IT program at Forest Park High in Dumfries where he is a sophomore.
Juliane said MCS helped her develop good daily study habits which she carried with her into high school.
She’s an organized and independent thinker who works well without her parents’ supervision, Juliane said.
She told the parents to encourage their children to use the agendas issued by MCS and to make sure they do their homework immediately after they arrive home from school.
That way, she said, it becomes a rhythm and the natural thing to do.
Most of the students agreed that the assignments they get in high school are fairly easy to them because they were challenged early on at MCS.
“When you get to high school you’re like, ‘Is this all I need to do?’” Daryll told the group on Tuesday.
Upon entering public school, most of the students were placed in advance classes above their grade levels.
Brandon said he tackled the private school curriculum while achieving his goal of playing every sport during his final year at MCS. This was in addition to pursuing his true passion of race car driving on the weekends. He still races and hopes to go pro soon.
Victoria said she keeps up with her school work while pursuing the arts. She has a role in her school’s production of the King and I this month.
“You’re not losing anything if you come here,” Brandon said of MCS. “You are almost gaining from coming here.”