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.
That same year, Celeste and her husband Grafton; co-founded the Erin Peterson Fund, 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 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. The Erin Peterson Fund is the sole external financial supporter of the extremely successful Young Men's Leadership Group, formerly known as the Boys Leadership Group at Westfield High School with whom Celeste has partnered with since 2008.
A 36-year, now retired 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 for 3 years where under her leadership the division received company awards 2 years in a row for meeting and in most areas 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. In 2007, Celeste was presented with the IIS President's Inclusion Award in recognition for her contributions in promoting and ensuring an inclusive and diverse culture in the workplace. Celeste’s professional life mirrors the values that are important to her personally: family, friends, church family and a strong desire to help young people be the very best they can be.