By Tom Budzyna, USAG Schinnen Netherlands Public AffairsJune 16, 2008
NATO AIR BASE Geilenkirchen, Germany - The tri-border NATO community here celebrated the graduation of AFNORTH International High School's Class of 2008 - and so did some parents currently deployed to sites in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Graduates from seven nations received their diploma center stage June 13 under the lens of television cameras that broadcast the entire ceremony via satellite, enabling deployed family members to watch graduation over an Internet podcast.
Taking in stride the sound of roaring engines from NATO AWACS jets that continued to perform the alliance's collective security mission, the graduates marked the end of what some parents described as culmination of an entire lifetime for the children and a fleeting moment in a mother or father's lifetime.
The 39th Signal Battalion, based at U.S. Army Garrison Schinnen, Netherlands, represented the 5th Signal Command's effort in Geilenkirchen, Germany, to enable a Europe-wide podcast, or "grad cast", so deployed parents could share the moment live.
The AFNORTH International High School ceremony made the podcast more personal by allowing each graduate to stand center stage while officials read a surprise message written by their parents, congratulating their graduation and wishing their graduate well as they embark on a new chapter of their lives.
Constance Ennix, a retired assistant principal for Department of Defense Dependents Schools, gave the commencement address to the Class of 2008.
In her address, Ennix challenged graduates to ask themselves if they are "tough enough" to face the intellectual challenges that face them and, after citing several personal examples of the class's accomplishments, assured the graduates they can enter adulthood with confidence knowing that they are.
With good humor and to encourage students to rise to the challenges of life, she said that part of the reason the Class of 2008 was so successful in receiving well over $1 million in scholarships was due to her bribing students with chocolate.
"If you make the honor roll," Ennix coaxed students earlier in the year, "then I'll give you a chocolate."
After finding so many students exhausting her supply of chocolate, Ennix challenged students going to college saying, "Now, go make the deans list and then treat yourself by getting your own box of chocolates."
Founded in 1967, AFNORTH International School provides an educational curriculum for family members of personnel assigned to NATO and U.S. military commands in the Schinnen, Netherlands, area. In keeping with the school's mission, the four founding nations of Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States work as an integrated organization to "make use of the European setting, the multi-cultural and diverse nature of our teacher and student bodies, and support of our military community".
The American, British, Canadian sections integrate classes, teachers and students to share English as the common language with other international students. There is a smaller group of international students in the German section where the common language is German. The school is well supported by additional professional staff members include counselors, nurses, information specialists as well as language, reading and educational technologies.
The present school building was opened in 1993 to support the open, multi-cultural environment by offering standard class rooms and larger "pods" for individual and group work areas or large group presentations, as well as science laboratories, computer centers, gymnasiums and specialist areas for special education, art, music and industrial arts, etc. Students can participate in a wide range of extra-curricular activities including sports, student government, clubs and simulation programs such as Model United Nations and Model European Parliament.