By Ms. Susan Huseman (IMCOM)June 14, 2010
STUTTGART, Germany -- Patch High School sent its 31st class out into the world June 10.
One hundred and twenty-six seniors crossed the Sindelfingen Stadthalle stage to accept their high school diplomas and embark on the journey into adulthood.
The class of 2010 had a remarkable year - academically, athletically and in community service, according to Will Viana, salutatorian.
But they didn't do it alone.
Viana asked his classmates to remember those who contributed to their success and brought them to this milestone: their families.
"Not only did you birth and raise us; you gave us free food and lodging, a good environment in which to succeed, and the encouragement we needed to navigate the difficulties of high school and stand proudly before you today," he told the audience. "For everything you've done, we thank you."
According to Valedictorian Grant Petersen, the freedom and independence he and his fellow students are about to experience might be overwhelming for some, but the class of 2010 is psyched for the challenge.
"We have been prepared by our families, by Patch High School and by a wealth of cultural experiences unique to overseas students," he told the crowd. "We are ready for it."
Along with freedom comes responsibility, Petersen said, and he urged the seniors to build moral compasses based on the values learned from their parents.
"If you think it's wrong, it probably is, so don't do it," he advised, using a much-repeated quote of Susan Page, PHS principal.
Commencement speaker Maj. Gen. Michael A. Snodgrass, U.S. Africa Command chief of staff, offered his own words of wisdom.
"Nothing is out of your reach," he told the graduates. "You can do whatever you can see in your mind ... whatever you know in your heart."
He also offered what he called "keys to survival." "Be around positive people - people who share your own vision, people who want to achieve the same things you want to achieve," he said.
The commencement ceremony not only marked a new beginning for graduating seniors, but for Principal Page, as well.
Page, at the helm of PHS for the past five years, will take a sabbatical for family reasons.
"I'm not sure what I'm going to do with all my black and gold [clothing], though you can be sure I will continue to proudly wear my Patch T-shirts and hoodies," she told the audience.
To the graduates, Page gave the following advice: "... I encourage you to take the positive memories with you, learn from the negative ones, and move forward. Be nice, laugh a lot, follow your passion, work hard and never stop learning."
"I am so proud of you," she concluded.
And with those words, Page and the seniors each began the next chapter of their lives.