Photo Gallery: Excellence in Education Banquet

More than 350 of Loudoun County’s top performing students were honored Sunday during the annual Excellence in Education banquet the National Conference Center.

In its 37th year, the event recognizes juniors who have ranked in the top 5 percent of their class during the first three years of their high school careers. Also in the group were 56 National Merit Scholarship semifinalists and seven National Hispanic Recognition Scholars. And there were band and sports champions, a top-ranked equestrian, a national chess champion, entrepreneurs. 

The program started in 1983, organized by Al Sowards, who held the dinner in a church hall. Today, with the support of the Loudoun Education Foundation and numerous community sponsors, the banquet is the largest event of the school year. Even in the county’s largest events venue on Sunday, the honorees and their families were divided into two shifts with half invited to an afternoon program and the other half to an evening dinner. Nearly four decades, later, Sowards and his wife, Jane, were at a front table on Sunday to help honor the latest roster of top scholars.

Over the years, more than 6,000 high performing juniors have been recognized through the program. 

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