A decade of Hawks excellence: VHS turns 10
When Amanda Miller learned she would have to spend her sophomore year at “this new school called Viera High” in the 2006-2007 school year, she was angry, to put it politely. The Viera/Suntree resident had already spent a year at Rockledge High, and like fellow VHS students previously zoned at other high schools in the area, they were planning to finish secondary education at the great school in which they had invested their identity.
Ten years later, Miller’s feelings have done a 180.
“You couldn’t tell me at the time what a great school VHS would become, how much I would love it, how happy I would be to forever say I was in the first class to attend, and the first graduating class in 2009,” she said. “I feel very blessed.”
VHS started off with ninth and 10th grades in August 2006, 10 years ago this month. As those classes moved up a grade, a new one was added. When Miller’s class moved up to 12th grade, all four grade levels were established at the school as the build-out continued. The school is now home to about 2,000 students each year.
Students in sports and academics took their lumps as the new school searched for its footing. Now, the school gets an A rating each year by the state and has amassed record numbers of state and national awards in athletics and book smarts.
The success of the school stands to reason, according to Miller’s father, Don Miller, who with wife Dina also have a son, Kyle, who graduated from VHS in 2012.
“It’s the students and their families who determine how great a school will be. Of course people were upset because they had built their community schools to greatness, but that same winning combination follows them to the new school,” Don Miller said. Added Dina Miller, “Families in the Viera/Suntree area value education, they invest time and effort in their own children’s education, and they help other students with volunteer hours and resources.”
The same thing happened at the elementary school level, except Amanda Miller stayed put. Her Suntree Elementary School once housed 1,500 students until, first, Williams Elementary in Viera East came on line, and then families jammed Brevard County School Board meetings not wanting their children to attend schools “M” or “Q.” Now, Williams, Manatee and Quest elementary schools enjoy the same high rating and community camaraderie as Suntree.
A ray of sunshine about the move to VHS? While Amanda Miller had to say goodbye to some of her Rockledge High pals, she reconnected with others. Students who went out of the Viera/Suntree area for junior and senior high reconvened at VHS.
“I rediscovered my best friends from elementary school,” she explained, which included friends from orchestra and other clubs. She played viola from fourth grade through graduation.
Together, the pioneers blazed trails that today’s VHS Hawks take for granted. Miller excelled in athletics, becoming Cheerleader of the Year as a senior. She made her way onto the homecoming court and they had to create homemade sashes, which now have been replaced with actual sashes. The first year, the cheerleader outfits were homemade.
“Cheerleaders from other schools made fun of us that first year with their cute outfits,” Miller said. “Now we have the best of the best.”
She credits the study skills she honed at VHS ― she was a charter member of the National Honor Society there and helped launch many other clubs ― for her success in higher education, majoring in Health Sciences and minoring in Health Education at the University of North Florida.
Likewise, the VHS focus on turning an education into a career application continues to serve her. Working at the corporate office at Health First Health Plans’ Suntree headquarters, she plans to grow with the company. And like her parents, she plans to raise a family in the Viera/Suntree area, and remain strong in her faith at Church at Viera.
“When I stroll these halls and look around at the cases packed with trophies and all the beautiful equipment and facilities,” said Miller, now 25, surveying the VHS gym last month, “I can’t believe there was a time when my friends and I hated the thought of being here. Now I can’t wait for my kids to go here one day.”