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News of the achievements of local students and members of the Armed Forces:

* Barbara McBride of McLean earned a bachelor of arts degree during recent commencement exercises at the University of Alabama.

* Connor Geshan of Oakton has been named to the dean’s list for the spring semester at Western New England University.

* Shan Lateef, a student at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology, has been named a recipient of Virginia’s 2019 Outstanding STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] Awards.  

Lateef was one of two students named a STEM Phenom, and one of only five individuals honored with the Outstanding STEM Awards by Gov. Northam and the Science Museum of Virginia’s Richard Conti.

Lateef’s interest in STEM began long before he became a student at Thomas Jefferson. Using the common fruit fly, Lateef and a collaborator conducted a year-long project to understand the implications of ultraviolet radiation on health and the potential of antioxidants to protect against UV-induced damage.

His current research focuses on the cellular and molecular mechanism of traumatic brain injury to determine appropriate targets for treatments and interventions. Lateef has successfully published his initial findings in the Journal of Experimental Neuroscience and has presented his work at two scientific conferences.

This past spring, Lateef received the American Academy of Neurology’s Neuroscience Research Prize, one of just four high-school students in the U.S. awarded the honor. He also won the first-place award in Medicine and Health at the National Junior Science and Humanities Symposium.

He is currently serving as the President of the Virginia Junior Academy of Science.

* Twenty-three Fairfax County public schools have earned recognition from the organization Common Sense for demonstrating a whole-community approach to digital citizenship.  

In the Sun Gazette area, Chesterbrook Elementary School, Cunningham Park Elementary School, Oakton High School and Thomas Jefferson High School for Science & Technology were recipients of the honor for their efforts during the 2018-19 school year. Additional schools are actively working to earn recognition, county school officials said.

Common Sense is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to helping youth and families thrive in a world of media and technology.

* The student-services department at Thoreau Middle School recently welcomed therapy dog, Jackson, as part of a clinical team.  

Research has shown that petting a dog can decrease levels of stress hormones, regulate breathing and lower blood pressure. It also promotes greater self-esteem and focused interaction with other students and teachers.

Jackson will be at Thoreau part-time with school social worker Joy Granados, visiting select classrooms and students and traveling the hallways at arrival and dismissal times.  Jackson has been certified as a therapy dog through Therapy Dog International, and is up-to-date on all his vaccinations.  

* The Filipino-American (Fil/Am) Community Ministry based at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in Vienna recently celebrated the success of Leobert Francisco, who earned a bachelor of science degree in secondary education in the Philippines through the support of the ministry.

The educational opportunity was hosted through Caritas Manila, which solicits funds to support educational opportunities for youth in the poorest sections of the country.

Francisco currently is working toward gaining teaching licensure, and will become an educator in his community.

“This is heartwarming for the Fil/Am Community Ministry, and we are humbled to be part of the difference Leobert is now able to make,” the church said in a statement.

In addition to Francisco, Claudine Diaton was supported from her junior year in pursuit of a college degree in agriculture, which she obtained in 2018. The initiative also is supporting Ephraim Gaano, who is a sophomore in college and working toward a degree in secondary education.

The Fil/Am Community Ministry has recently received grants and donations from organizations such as the Navy Federal Credit Union, the Women of Our Lady of Good Counsel and other benefactors, and is working to expand its footprint in support of youth.

For information about the ministry, call  Chiqiu Pacis-Sanchez at (571) 499-8277 or email

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