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Celeste Peterson 


An early morning phone call transformed Celeste Peterson from a proud, devoted, and loving mother into the public voice for the legacy left by her 18-year-old daughter, Erin, who died April 16, 2007, at Virginia Tech in the worst college tragedy in history. Erin was a freshman.


That same year, Celeste and her husband Grafton co-founded the Erin Peterson Fund (EPF), a non-profit organization that awards scholarships and grants to help students with the same dreams and aspirations as Erin. Grafton unfortunately passed and joined Erin in March 2016. Celeste continues to honor both their legacies through the fund. 


Celeste was honored in 2008 as an Outstanding Leader by Fairfax County's Business School Partnership and for her partnership with Falls Church High School.  Celeste served on the Partners in Education Advisory board for Fairfax County Public Schools for 3 years; her last year on the board was in 2008 she served as the co-chair.  In 2011 Celeste was awarded the Friend of Education award by Phi Delta Kappa International, the premier professional association for educators.  In 2012 Celeste was awarded the 2012 Outstanding Educator Award by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Cultural Foundation, Inc.  Additionally, Celeste was honored by the Fairfax County NAACP with the 2015 Community Service Award.  In 2022 Celeste was honored on Centreville Day as the Citizen of the Year and again in 2023 by OKK Omega Psi Phi Fraternity at their Achievement Award Banquet. Celeste currently serves on the Fairfax County Police Civilian Review panel.


The Erin Peterson Fund supports and facilitates the extremely successful Young Men's Leadership Group (YMLG) at Westfield High School and Stone Middle School. In 2019 the YMLG at Westfield was the Fairfax County Public School winner of the Team Excellence Award.   Additionally, EPF supports and facilitates the Girls Reaching for Academic and Cultural Excellence (GRACE) groups at Westfield High and Stone Middle School.  EPF identified students in need of winter coats and created the EPF Koats for Kids program which provides new coats for local elementary, middle, and high school children. In 2019 EPF partnered with Westfield High School to create, facilitate, and support an in-school food pantry: the EPF Fuel Station. The success of the food pantry was expanded in 2022 to Stone Middle School. The Stone EPF Fuel Station currently feeds over 25 families. EPF has developed a relationship with Forest Glen Senior Living Apartment Complex to provide a variety of activities for the residents. Additionally, EPF has continued since inception to provide over $10,000 in college scholarship awards per year to graduating students.


Celeste, now retired, worked for 36 years as an employee of an aerospace, intelligence, and defense company.  Celeste was responsible for technical training and employee welfare. Celeste served as the chair of the Health and Wellness Committee and under her leadership the division received company awards for exceeding the health and wellness goals.  She also served for 10 years as a council member of the company's regional diversity and inclusion program.  During Celeste’s career, she was presented with the President's Inclusion Award in recognition for her contributions in promoting and ensuring an inclusive and diverse culture in the workplace.  Celeste’s professional and personal life has mirrored the values that are important to her:  family, friends, community, and a strong desire to help young people be the very best they can be.  At the heart of it all, Celeste would say she is a mother.

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