CAMP HUMPHREYS -- With much anticipation, the first Humphreys High School Commencement Celebration was held, June 4, where the 31-member senior class became the first to graduate from the school.
The class is made up of future Armed Forces Service Members, health professionals, architects, computer scientists, engineers, scientists, criminologists, CEOs, and even three teachers. Most have plans to attend four-year universities and have already been accepted at colleges all across the United States.
Prior to the 2013-14 school year, high school students from Camp Humphreys attended school at Osan American High School, on Osan Air Base, about 30 minutes away.
"As a brand new school, for every event this year I have been able to preface the event with the statement 'Welcome to our first…,'" said Shelly Kennedy, HHS principal. "This occasion is the last time I can make such a statement."
Kennedy told those in attendance about a tradition they have established for the school, called the "senior interview."
"This gave me the chance to learn more about the students and how they viewed their high school experience," she said. "When asked what they will miss the most about Humphreys High School, naturally the majority stated they would miss their friends. They spoke of the sense of belonging they felt in this school. Many said 'We are a tight knit group of students who look out for each other, I felt like I belonged here from the very first day.'"
Although the students have many fond memories to look back on, Kennedy said the most commonly shared memory "was the first day we came into this building. The seniors were the last to enter the auditorium and when they did, all of the underclassmen gave them a standing ovation. They said, 'That was when we really felt like the Class of 2014 -- that is what made us feel like seniors.'"
And, not surprisingly, many felt that graduation would be their fondest memory of high school.
General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, commander of United Nations Command/Combined Forces Command/United States Forces Korea, served as the guest speaker and shared a few lessons he learned since he graduated high school, attended the United States Military Academy, West Point and served more than 35 years in the U.S. Army.
"As the Commander of all U.S. Forces in Korea, this is one of the most important things that I will do … talk to the young men and women -- future leaders -- of our great Nation -- the Humphreys High School Class of 2014," he said. "My job is to congratulate you and give you a little counsel for the journey into adulthood. So, here is the deal. I'll do the speaking, and I'll keep it short. You do the listening -- and listen well. And, if you stop listening before I stop speaking…. please let me know. OK?"
Some of the lessons Scaparrotti imparted were:
-Follow your instincts. You'll get a lot of direct advice about what you should do along the way. I've learned that I and others do best what they love -- what, in their hearts, they have an urge to do.
-Continue to learn. Regardless of what you will do next … entering the work force, the military, a trade school or college, you must commit yourself to always learn and adapt.
-Jot down "What you believe in." As you move through life -- and continue to question it. Be skeptical. I've got a list that I started 20 years ago. I've found that as I grow older, and hopefully a little wiser, I line some things out and add others. Some things he said he believes in are: The Golden Rule -- Treat others as you want to be treated. Fundamentals first -- Every profession or job has basic knowledge and tasks -- learn and execute them with precision -- frequently. Really, very few people do that in life and the real pros always do it. Consistent performance to standards -- In other words, be reliable, not the snapshot hero for a moment in time. TEAM -- Together Everyone Achieves More. You'll never achieve anything meaningful by yourself.
-Always strive to find your limits. For the rest of your life, press on to reach a goal that is a stretch for you. You've got to be willing to take that first, scary, uncertain step. In fact, I've learned that most of us have no clue of our capabilities or our true potential.
"Each of you has gifts that you are not even aware of yet … and the potential to learn and perform at levels that you can't imagine," he said. "Too many people allow others to convince them that they have reached their limit, or they couldn't reach a goal in life … or we talk ourselves out of trying due to the fear of failing. You have a great life awaiting you. Trust your instincts, continue to learn, know what you believe in, and always press to find your limit. I'm sure you'll achieve more than you ever expected. Now -- right after you have diploma in hand and this ceremony ends -- tell your proud and relieved parents and loved ones -- thank you. Remember TEAM -- you didn't get here alone."
Once Scaparrotti concluded, he was presented with a thank you gift by Class President, Emily Cox. Scaparrotti was later joined on the auditorium stage by Dr. Irby Miller, superintendent of schools for Korea, Kennedy, and D.J.LaFon, the HHS assistant principal, to present diplomas and congratulate the 29 graduates in attendance.
Following the graduation proclamation by Kennedy, the graduates and audience moved outside for the ceremonial tossing of the caps.
"Getting the chance to graduate in Humphreys High School's auditorium will be something that I will never forget," said Angela Padua, the HHS Student Council president. "The honor to finally get to walk across the stage and get a diploma was amazing, but the actual thought of being in the first class to do so in HHS history is unbelievable.
"For most of the class, they have been a part of different high schools in non-DoDEA communities," she added. "But, as one of the few that has been here in South Korea since our freshman year in Osan American High School, it has been a journey to start as an Osan Cougar and to end as a Humphreys Blackhawk our senior year. To be completely honest, I feel that my class was showered with opportunities that made us grow to be the strong people we will be as we reach the 'real world' this coming fall."