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Schweinfurt’s inaugural senior class earns diplomas

June 13, 2012

Photo by Nathan Van Schaik, USAG Schweinfurt Public Affairs

Schweinfurt’s 33 graduating seniors toss their caps after Dr. Vince Diaz, high school principal, testifies they meet graduation requirements. Students, parents, families, friends and community members packed the Mercure Hotel auditorium June 12 as the class of 2012 seniors received their diplomas, the first time ever in the Army’s nearly 70-year history here.

SCHWEINFURT, Germany — It was an historic night brimming with extravagance and flooded with emotion  as audience members dressed in their wardrobe’s fanciest came to witness the 33 seniors from the high school here graduate.

Students, parents, families, friends and community members packed the Mercure Hotel auditorium June 12 as the class of 2012 seniors received their diplomas, the first time ever in the Army’s nearly 70-year history here.

The night’s focus was on the seniors and their achievements, made possible in large part by a contingent of Soldiers, garrison officials, school leadership and volunteers who rallied together in the months leading up to the beginning of the school year.

“But one question emerged quickly,” said Garrison Commander, Lt. Col. Michael Runey, in the commencement speech to seniors. “And that was whether you, the senior class, would buy in. And you did.”

“Be a participant, not a spectator,” Schweinfurt High School Principal, Dr. Vince Diaz, advised seniors. He tasked them to register to vote, to get engaged and find a worthy cause, reflect on family and be courageous in trying new things. “In the end, blaze your own trail,” he said.

For seniors, it was a night to reflect on the rare qualities granted only to students living overseas as military brats at Department of Defense Dependents Schools, or DoDDS.

Schweinfurt High School Class of 2012
Graduating Seniors

Curtis Adams
Wade Adams
Rodolfo Bernardino
Madea Brewer
Timothy Bishop
Emily Bryant
Sylina Byron
John Carmona
Devinne Crawford
John Durousseau III
Samantha Fox
Francesca Galeana-Vazquez
Taylor Hendershot
Caleb Isom
Matthew Itliong
Tiffanie Johnson
Alberto Lopez Perez
Ashley Marsh
Michael Motto
Lauren Moyer
Tyris Newton
Jessica Pinyan
Diandra Quashie
Leah Rogers
Danae Shreve
Heather Smith
Tevin Stewart
Vaun Stivers
Katherine Street
Tanzania Thomas
Brattany Waters
Tajanese Wilson
Brandon Wright

“Learning how to deal with all kinds of people like we have here at DoDDS gives us an advantage that others don’t have,” said valedictorian Jessica Nicole Pinyan.

“I see individuals with unrivaled heart and character and I see many who are constantly moving and looking forward,” said salutatorian Ashley Marsh. “But one single characteristic holds us all together: Strength.”

Said Pinyan: “We have already experienced different cultures and a whole range of different types of people — the smart people, the quiet people, the sporty people, and often times, the insane but still-fun-to-be-around people. In case you haven’t noticed, students here can get along with just about anyone.”

One particular thread weaving its way through the ceremony was the significant role parents played.

“I asked the seniors earlier today during the rehearsal what I should say to them,” Runey said. “They want to thank their parents. They wanted to make sure you knew how important you are to them.”

“I always heard that this graduation isn’t for the students,” Pinyan said in her valedictorian speech. “It’s for the parents, to see their hard work cross the stage and move on to the next part of their lives.”

The idea for the high school was hatched as early as 2009, according to School Liaison Officer Beth Potter, who, with then Garrison Commander Lt. Col. Everett Spain, set the plan in motion. Built on a case calling for more ease of access and safety, and originally put forth at a time when the Schweinfurt garrison was anticipated to remain open for many more years — though now scheduled to close by Oct. 2014 — the bold plan put the student and the parent at the forefront of the discussion.

“Schweinfurt High School should not exist. If you ran the numbers, we should not exist. But we do,” Runey said.

Before the 2011-2012 school year, high school students had been commuting to Bamberg High School, which for some students and parents ate away as many as three hours of their day.

A high school in Schweinfurt would encourage more parent and student participation, voiced garrison officials in their struggle to bring the school here. A Schweinfurt school would lessen the impact of force protection and safety concerns wrought by hours of travel on the autobahn.

The plan for the new school was vetted all the way up through the Defense Department when Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Clifford Stanley raised the stakes and pledged to “develop a feasible and effective time line to implement the interim solution as soon as possible,” he said in a June 2011 memorandum.

Two days later the Department of Defense Education Activity — the agency managing all schools for U.S. military children — announced the establishment of a high school in the Schweinfurt community.

Fifty-three days later, from drawing board to classroom, the high school was stood up as a full-fledged and functioning DoDDS-Europe Division II high school with 27 teachers and 225 students. The serendipitous closure of Mannheim, too, made the logistics of setting up the school much easier.

“Garrison, community, educators, parents and students all worked diligently to turn a vision into a reality,” said Beth Potter.

And 348 days after the DoDEA announcement, Schweinfurt’s first graduating class took to the stage.

“As the principal of Schweinfurt High School,” Diaz said in closing remarks, “I testify that the transcripts of all these students have been reviewed and I certify that these seniors have met the graduation requirements of the Department of Defense Dependents Schools.”



Caleb Isom – Auditioned and selected for DoDDS-Europe Honors Music Festival

Career Technical Education

Rodolfo Bernardino – Received CTE Endorsement in Hospitality and Tourism

Alberto Lopez Perez – Received CTE Endorsement in Government and Public Administration

Culinary Arts

Michael Motto – 1st Place in Knife Skills and Culinary Arts at the All-Europe Culinary Faire


Sylina Byron – Schweinfurt Commissary Scholarship

Danae Shreve – New Mexico State Scholarship

Heather Smith – Faulkner University Women’s Soccer Scholarship

Academic Titles

Ashley Marsh – Salutatorian

Jessica Pinyan – Valedictorian


Katherine Street – received First Team All Region (Eastern Region) and All Tournament for softball (nominated for All Europe)

Diandra Quashie – Received First Team All Region (Region III) for basketball

Brandon Wright – Received First Team All Region (Region III) for basketball

National Honor Society Members

Emily Bryant

Sylina Byron

Caleb Isom

Graduating Seniors with Deployed Parents

Matthew Itliong

Tyris Newton

Diandra Quashie


Story by Nathan Van Schaik, USAG Schweinfurt Public Affairs

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