Graduates learned lesson in diversity

Published May 26, 2007

NEW PORT RICHEY - The theme for this year's graduating class at Genesis Prep was diversity. Genesis, a small private school, merged last year with Schiller International University.

About a quarter of the graduating class was new to the school, offering what administrators call an "international learning experience." The graduating class of 16 included students from Portugal, Spain, China, Taiwan, Germany, and the United States.

The merger made "our family bigger, badder and more diverse, " said class salutatorian Brennan Palisi during his address to students Thursday night.

Some of the graduating seniors had been together since as early as preschool at Genesis, including valedictorian Derek Clark and Joshua Cappadona, who started at the school when they were 3 years old.

"We've learned of our culture ... how a small group of people can make a big difference, " Clark said, adding that he spent more than seven years with some of his classmates, and one year with others.

This was Genesis Prep's ninth graduation ceremony and its 14th year of existence.

"This graduating class represents all that is good in young people today, " said head of school Melissa Nurrenbrock. She discussed the legacy of Dr. Walter Leibrecht, who started Schiller schools in Germany more than 40 years ago.

"We hope we have been true to his vision, " she said of Leibrecht, who died in February.

Her remarks were followed by a 30-minute tribute to Leibrecht by Schiller's vice president for academic affairs, Dr. Lutz Hoernecke, as well as a history of the Schiller schools in Europe.

A photograph of Leibrecht sat in the lobby, next to a picture of Ariel Goldman. The former student died in 2001 and would have been a member of the Genesis graduating class.

At age 11, Ariel died suddenly in her sleep from a rare condition marked by an abnormal collection of blood vessels in her brain. It caused a massive brain hemorrhage.

Clark asked the audience for a moment of silence in Ariel's honor.

"She would have graduated with us this year, " he said.