Some Things Never Change: A Look into the Past of South Lakes

South Lakes High School first opened its doors in 1978. While that may seem like a long time ago, not much has changed over the 44 years that it has been educating the students of  Reston. Of course, there have been physical changes such as the addition of the 600’s wing, and no longer having four cafeterias or colored carpets in the subschools. However, a strong sense of community remains. 

South Lakes’ very own principal, Ms. Kimberly Retzer, attended South Lakes as a student from 1985-89. She also served as senior class president. “Student government took up a lot of my time, and I was also involved in S.A.D.D. ‘Students Against Drunk Driving.’ We had a large chapter back then,” she said.  Homecoming was her favorite event and continues to be the most popular event of the year. 

“People would color their hair, paint their faces, and dress up for Spirit Week. I remember building and riding on my 10th grade Homecoming Parade float. We used chicken wire and napkins to decorate it,” she says. Geometry teacher, Ms. Kellye Young, who also attended South Lakes as a student, adds that “the excitement surrounding Homecoming has always been there. It’s my favorite week of the school year, and I had ‘Homecoming withdrawals’ when I was in college.” 

The volunteer work and community service that South Lakes students participate in is just another aspect of what it means to be a Seahawk. This was the case then, and it’s still the case today. Canned food drives and various other fundraisers have taken place every year. Mrs. Retzer explained, “The idea that we work, live, play, and serve in Reston has always been important to us, but especially the service element. We’ve always looked out for each other. The idea that our school is very much a community has never changed,” Retzer said. 

Since its founding, the Reston community has seen a lot of growth and change. The million dollar houses by the lake and affordable housing have always coexisted, but the economic divide has continued to stretch over the years. When Mrs. Retzer was a student, the percentage of non-white students was around 15% to 20%, but now, South Lakes is a majority minority school. “Our diversity is much greater now. We’ve always had it, but it was different back then. That being said, we were much more diverse than other schools in our area,” Retzer explained. 

When English teacher, and former South Lakes student Mrs. Dawn Garcia moved to Reston, the diversity is what stood out to her. “I came to South Lakes after living in a predominantly white area. It was really refreshing to come to a hub of diversity, and it felt nice to be around so many different types of people. It was and is a welcoming environment for all,” she said. 

Mrs. Retzer has had countless positive experiences over her years as a student and as a principal at South Lakes, but the thing she is most proud of is the “We Are” wall. “It is such a bold statement about what is most important to us, and the fact that our goal is to make everyone feel accepted,” she says. Mrs. Retzer takes it personally when students do not feel accepted at South Lakes, and prioritizes making all who work and attend school feel welcome. The South Lakes community’s foundation was built by people from all different walks of life, and “being around people who aren’t like you is a life lesson,” she adds. 

Change can be scary, but in truth, it’s the only constant in life. While the South Lakes building continues to change with new artwork, clubs, teachers, students, and everything in between, the sense of community and family is something that no physical change will ever undo.