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Graduates of the 2011 class of Prince George High School toss their mortarboards in the air following the diploma presenations at the school’s football stadium Saturday. (BELOW) Donna Young gives a congratulatory hug to Shaun Robertson. PHOTOS BY T. ANTHONY BELL

Grads Celebrate in Grand Style Commencement Exercises Especially Meaningful to Military Family Members by T. Anthony Bell Senior Writer/Special Projects

The true spirit of a commencement exercise doesn’t show itself during the valedictory address, the presentation of diplomas or even the playing of “Pomp and Circumstance.” It surfaces after the formalities, when graduates come face to face with the people who helped guide them along their journeys. Every smile, hug and tear shed holds the true meaning of graduation. It is a time of pride and hope for the future. That spirit was alive and well during the 88th Annual Commencement Exercises at Prince George High School Saturday as 367 students were presented their diplomas. The school, located roughly four miles east of Fort Lee, is the installation’s designated secondary school for resident school-age military family members. More than 30 percent of the graduating class are military family members. A few hundred more in the general student population are militaryaffiliated, having parents who are retired service members, current or retired government civilians or contractors working at Fort Lee. The ceremony took place at the school’s football stadium and was attended by roughly 3,000 people. They braved 90-degree sweat box-like temperatures, proudly wore the school’s green

and gold colors and cheered the graduates as their names were announced over the loudspeakers. One of them was Rema Henderson, who came to see her youngest child, Cristin, receive her diploma. “I felt fabulous,” said the post employee and wife of a retired master sergeant. “I even broke into tears. Do you hear me? I’m so elated, thankful and grateful that I have a daughter coming out this time of the year.” As graduations go, they are achievements that rank up there with weddings and the birth of a child. For military family members, a high school graduation is even more special, considering that many move three or four times and attend as many as seven different schools. By all accounts, it’s a milestone, something likened to surviving a basic training over a 12-year period, said Sgt. 1st Class Richard Perry, stepfather of graduate Quanisha Burns. “They sacrifice so much,” he said of military family members. “You talk about being on deployments over and over again, being separated from your family, so to see this and be out here for the graduation … it kind of sums of up everything they’ve experienced as military family members.” Everette Burns, Quanisha’s biological father and a retired

military member, agreed with Perry but was also more reflective of the moments at hand – the fact that his only child earned a diploma and is moving on with her life. “It’s a blessing,” he said. The blessings seemed plentiful and so were the smiles. On the football field, outside its gates and in the parking lot, students with their faces aglow shared affection and reflections. Roselani Robinson, surrounded by family members and friends, said she felt proud and special when her name was announced during the diploma presentations. “It was really hot,” she said (“hot” as in “cool” or great). Deonesha Williams, daughter of retired Sgt. Maj. L’Tanya Williams, seemed to be in a state of euphoria moments after the ceremony, seemingly lacking the ability to fathom what had just occurred. “Thirteen years of school,” she said, smiling. “I can’t even express how I feel.” Shaun Robertson was a little better at it. The future West Pointer bear-hugged his classmates and gave a long, deep kiss to his friend, Adrinna Cook. The son of Sgt. Brandon and Penny Robertson said graduation was monumental to him, having attended more than six schools in his career, including two high schools. “I’ve been a long hard road,” he said, “but we finally made it.” They all did.


Three Perspectives

Parents Reflect Upon Decisions, Experiences Relating to High School Graduation With an adaptive perspective like that, parents Ret. Maj. Eric and James Simmons who have sacrificed their lives in support of the James Simmons, the youngest of three boys, is country’s defense are sure to feel some sense of also the most independent-minded. consolation and triumph at graduation time. Mary “He’s always been the one to do what he wants Lou is one of them. to do,” said his father Eric Simmons. “He’s a very “We couldn’t be more proud,” she said. independent thinker.” Shay has plans to attend Richard Bland College So when James decided to forego college to join in Petersburg this fall. the military, his dad was surprised – not that he actRet. Master Sgt. Evalani Faniel ed autonomously – that he didn’t decide to attend Matoaca High School graduated 383 students college. during its commencement exercises June 9. “I always thought his interest was to go to colMaurice M. “BJ” Beck Jr. was not one of lege and play football,” the elder Simmons, a forthem. mer football player himself, said of his son, a starter Beck, a spirited, athletic and family-oriented on the Thomas Dale High School football team. 16-year-old, succumbed to leukemia two years The younger Simmons’ decision in choosing a caago. He would’ve graduated this year. reer path is something millions of parents mull over His life and memory, however, have become a with their children during the last few years of high positive force for charity and support, inspiring school. They have to balance supportive guidance his family to help fellow students to fulfill their with providing them enough space to make their PHOTOS BY T. ANTHONY BELL life’s goals through a scholarship fund. own choices. The younger Simmons said the deciRet. Maj. Eric Simmons and son, James Beck’s parents, retired Master Sgts. sion to become a Soldier was his alone. Dewey and Evalani Faniel, began the “I believe that the only life you can live recognition last year. Evalani said the is the only life you know, and the only life scholarship serves to keep BJ’s spirit I know is the Army,” he said. alive while giving back to the school that The elder Simmons is an Army regave so much during their time of need. tiree and his two older sons are Soldiers “When all of this was going on with as well. Although his son’s decision was my family, the school, including the chilan eye-opener, the elder Simmons and his dren, were there every step of the way,” wife, Darbara, are in total support of their said the employee assigned to Fort Lee’s son and the career path he has chosen. Army Logistics University. “We didn’t “I’m proud that he made the decision to know how else to give back.” do what he wants to do and not what me or One student was selected for the scholhis mom want him to do,” he said. arship in 2010, and six earned $1,000 The younger Simmons will report to prizes this year. Evalani said the family Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., for basic trainVeteran Mary Lou Vandevander and daughter, raised the money for the latter through ing this summer and then travel to Fort Shay Nicole family, fund-raising events and via donaGordon, Ga., where he will receive train- Ret. Master Sgt. Evalani Faniel tions from so many people who wanted “The kids suffered anxiety and loss ing as a signal support systems specialist. of friendships,” she said of the reloca- to help. Mary Lou and Shay Vandevander “I wanted to do a little extra,” she said of this year’s To get an idea of the topsy-turvy life of a military fam- tions. “Some kids would find out that they were going ily, look no further than the home of David and Mary L. to move six months from now and they’d lose that friend scholarship recipients. “I wanted this year to stand out.” Evalani attended Matoaca’s graduation last year and right away. It was really hard.” Vandevander. Those difficult times are now part of the sweet jour- said she cried. She had plans to attend this year and said The family – which includes graduating senior, Shay, and younger sibling, Shannon – was in the Army, so to ney that resulted in Shay’s graduation with honors from she will no doubt be broken hearted. “Every parent waits for that day,” she said, “because speak, not long ago when both parents stood in the ranks as Prince George High School this week. Shay said military active duty Soldiers. As a result, they were hit with the full life provided her an enriching array of experiences that you finish one chapter and move on to the next.” The Faniel family’s next chapter for the foreseeable fuhelped her achieve a myriad of goals. brunt of instability associated with military life. “I wouldn’t change anything with us moving around,” ture is to provide opportunities for others. “By the time she (Shay) was 12, we had moved 13 “It’s our way of saying ‘thank you’ to all who helped times,” noted Mary Lou, who said goodbye to the Army she said, “because the person I am now is not the perin 2002 after 12 years of service. David made the decision son I would’ve been if we had stayed in Washington or because we can’t possibly thank everybody,” she said. sometime before that. Although her days in uniform are stayed in Alaska. Moving gives you new opportunities to “It’s the right thing to do.” long gone, Mary Lou remembers all her children endured meet new people and create friendships that last forever. It – compiled by T. Anthony Bell gives you experiences you could’ve never imagined.” and sacrificed in support to her and David’s careers.



High School Graduation 2011

High School Graduation 2011

Haseena R. Abdur-Rahman Prince George High School Fort Lee employee Qahir Abdur-Rahman and Mahasin Shamsid-Deen

Jennifer Berwanger Prince George High School Sgt. Maj. Frank and Petra Rivero

Aaron Joseph Bousquet Col. Heights High School Fort Lee employee Joanna Bousquet

Brandon Jerome Branch Matoaca High School Ret. Command Sgt. Maj. Carlton and Rachel Branch

Adrin Brodhead Thomas Dale High School Fort Lee employee Kimberly Simpkins and Johnny Simpkins

Katie Lynn Doyle Prince George High School Staff Sgt. John and Renae Stittgen

Che’Kea Dummars Clover Hill High School Ret. Sgts. 1st Class Gregory Clark and Jerome Dummars and Linda Dummars-Clark

Kymani Dunn Thomas Dale High School Fort Lee employee Elitha Dunn and Sgt. 1st Class D. Whitaker

Sean-Evan Evaro Matoaca High School Ret. Lt. Col. Vic and Lee Ann Evaro

Bradford O. Goldsmith Hanover High School (Mechanicsville) Col. Gregg and Beth Goldsmith

Shelton Q. Brown Jr. Varina High School Ret. 1st. Sgt. Shelton Q. Brown Sr. and ret. Master Sgt. Danette Lynn Brown

Victor R. Bullock Prince George High School Ret. Sgt. 1st Class Arlene Seelie-Bullock and Ret. Master Sgt. Jimmy L. Bullock

Robert Caldwell Jr. Prince George High School Sgt. 1st Class Robert and Crystal Caldwell

Trey D. Carter Prince George High School Retired Sgt. 1st Class Gloria and the late Morris Carter

Khalil Daniels Prince George High School Fort Lee employees Elbert and Gwendolyn Daniels

Rosanell Gonzalez Prince George High School Fort Lee employee Harry (stepfather) and Yvette Plaza

Danielle Donoyce Gordon Edgewood (Md.) High School CW4 Fitzalbert O. and Annmorine D. Gordon

Daneisha C. Guidry Prince George High School Sgt. 1st Class Deon F. and Lenora Guidry

Cristin Frazier Henderson Prince George High School Ret. Master Sgt. Mark and Rema Henderson

Ally Higgins Thomas Dale High School Fort Lee employee Jeff and Kristi Higgins

Alexis Nicole Davis Matoaca High School Ret. Col. Alexander D. Jr. and Karen F. Davis

Donovan Jamel Davis Prince George High School Master Sgt. Donald and Fort Lee employee Kimberly Davis

Jhalyn S. Davis Thomas Dale High School Maj. Theodore Davis Jr. and Rhonda R. Clanton-Davis

Charles R. Dickerson Jr. Thomas Dale High School Charles R. Dickerson and Lt. Col. Patricia A. Coburn

Baylor Dickerson Hanover High School (Hanover County) Ret. Lt. Col. Malcolm and Mary Dickerson

Thessalonia Hubert Prince George High School Capt.Thesolina and Michelle Hubert

Mandy Lockhart Prince George High School CW4 Joel and Jammie Lockhart

Jaron Martel McClain Thomas Dale High School Air Force Master Sgt. Harvey L. Jr. and Nataki McClain

Kayla Lashay Mitchell Fort Pierce (Fla.) Central H.S. Ret. Command Sgt. Maj. Clyde W. Mitchell and Yolanda Parks

Kriston Morris Thomas Dale High School Ret. 1st Sgt. Faron Brown and Maj. Kimberlyn Brown


Demitria J. Myrick Prince George High School Warren R. Myrick and Fort Lee employee Melvina R. Myrick

Dorian Anique Newberg Prince George High School Ret. 1st Sgt. Mark and Fort Lee employee Emma Newberg

Kiera M. Ortiz Prince George High School Rafael and ret. CW5 Karen Ortiz

Marina Rose T. Pagan Appomattox Regional Governor’s School Sgt. 1st Class Richard and Christine Pagan

April Amber Peterson Cosby High School Nelson and retired Maj. Gwendolyn Peterson

Hillery Peterson Prince George High School Ret. 1st Sgt. Hillerson Peterson and Tammy Lewis

Caelon N. Reed Woodside High School (Newport News) Capt. Consuelo Reed

James Reese Hephzibah (Ga.) High School Staff Sgt. Theresa HenryReese and James Reese

Jasmine Reese Prince George High School Staff Sgt. Theresa HenryReese and James Reese

Shelby R. Reynolds Prince George High School Sgt. Maj. David and Tammy Reynolds

Hannah Richardson Col. Heights High School Fort Lee employee Tim and Liz Richardson

Virginia Ann Russell Thomas Dale High School Col. Samuel L. and Kimberly J. Russell

James Simmons L.C. Bird High School Ret. Maj. Eric and Darbara Simmons

Christine Slaughter Appomattox Reg. Gov.’s Sch. Fort Lee employee Theresa Manns

Shaqondrick Snell Dinwiddie High School Master Sgt. Paul and Fort Lee employee Sylvia Denson


Kedrick W. Sousa Prince George High School Sgt. Maj. Gene and post employee Felecia Sousa

Nakia Speaks Sussex Central High School Fort Lee employee Emma Taylor

Jerry K.Thomas Jr. Petersburg High School Retired 1st Sgt. Jerry K. and Jerline I. Thomas

Christopher DeWitt Towns Thomas Dale High School Ret. Maj. Winfred and Fort Lee employee Stacey Towns

Jasmine S.E. Travis Bel Air High School (Md.) Fort Lee employee John C. Harlee and Sharolynn Travis-Harlee

Kevin Alexander Turrentine Prince George High School Ret. Master Sgt. Cornell Turrentine Sr. and Sgt. 1st Class Kimberly Turrentine

Shay Nicole Vandevander Prince George High School Fort Lee employees David and Mary Lou Vandevander

Zanya Umpierre Velazquez Prince George High School Ramon Umpierre and Fort Lee employee Cynthia Velazquez-Peterson

Brandon D. Walton Prince George High School Fort Lee employee Michelle Boatwright-Walton

Don Wells II Prince George High School Ret. Command Sgt. Maj. Don and Fort Lee employee Donna Wells

Joshua E. Whatley Petersburg High School Fort Lee employee Vivian and Enmon Whatley, U. S. Army ret.

Gabrielle T.Whittington Prince George High School Ret. CW4 Harold and Diahann Whittington

Deonesha Williams Prince George High School Retired Sgt. Maj. L’Tanya Williams

Albert Williams Jr Prince George High School Ret. Sgt. Maj. Albert and Linda Williams

Anthony Kittles Jr. Prince George High School Sgt. 1st Class Anthony and Camille Kittles


Congratulations To the parents and Class of 2011 graduates

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Ft. Lee Salutes the Graduates  
Ft. Lee Salutes the Graduates  

Celebrating Fort Lee's Graduating High School Seniors