Photo by Ashley Cowan

Apprentice School Graduates 170

Published March 15, 2022

Newport News Shipbuilding hosted commencement exercises Saturday, March 12, for 170 graduates of The Apprentice School’s Class of 2021. The ceremony was held at Liberty Live Church in Hampton.

NNS President Jennifer Boykin kicked off the event by addressing the graduates as the shipyard’s newest leaders.

“I want you to know how proud I am of each of you for everything that you’ve accomplished,” she said. “Today is just the next step toward your leadership role at Newport News Shipbuilding, and we and our country need you more than ever. As shipbuilders, we take on the truly unique honor of building vessels that protect our country and go into harm’s way.”

The commencement address was delivered by Karen Henneberger, program manager for New Ship Design at Naval Reactors, a joint Department of Energy and Department of Navy program. Like Boykin, she emphasized the Navy’s need for shipbuilders while also encouraging graduates to always prioritize safety and quality.

“The systems we build are complex and unforgiving,” Henneberger said. “Our ships go into harm’s way to defend our nation, and we depend on you to safely build ships that work every time as intended so that when our sailors need their might the most – they work – 24/7.”

In Apprentice School tradition, Chris Rose – the apprentice receiving the Homer L. Ferguson Award, which recognizes the graduate with the highest honors – also addressed graduates.

“Always watch your step, plan where you are going, and put the journey before the destination,” Rose said. “No matter what you’re doing, the most important step is the next one. Once you know what you need to do, it’s just a matter of logistics,” he said.

Also participating in the ceremony were Latitia McCane, director of Education at The Apprentice School; Xavier Beale, vice president of Trades; and Antuan Barnes, a senior reproduction clerk, who sang the national anthem.

Replay coverage of the ceremony is available at