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A graduating class so rooted in its spirituality shares a common goal, a goal even beyond that of graduation.
It was this spiritual goal that made this year’s Saddleback Valley Christian School’s high school graduation a communal event that brought the diverse group of 64 seniors together in celebration, Friday evening at Crossline Community Church.
Korean native, YoungJae Lee welcomed family and friends to the ceremony. Lee especially noted thanks for his parents traveling from Korea to be there, and thanked the family that took care of him for the two years he spent at the school.
“I love you all and be good,” he said, sending the congregation cheering.
Alexis Varela, senior class president, presented the senior class gift; a mosaic which was composed of quotes, favorite Bible versus and photos that expressed their fond memories of high school.
“The mosaic represents our class, who began as random, mismatched individuals that, over the years, with lots of love and attention, with a little guidance … OK maybe a lot, has taken the form of something beautiful.”
Bruce Harbin, board president, gave a welcome on behalf of the school’s administration, expressing his pride for the students. Nearly 200 colleges offered acceptances to the 64 seniors. Twenty-four of the students graduated with a GPA of 3.5 or better.
The focus, however, was on the spirituality of the students. The senior class spent a total of 1,400 hours on community service during the winter season. The class of 2012 also shared what they have learned spiritually to people in nine different countries on five different continents.
It was fitting that Nicole Stafford gave one of the valedictorian speech because, according to math teacher, Patricia Bergen, Stafford was meant to write it ever since she was the “mischievous, adorable freshman who could write and deliver a speech like nobody’s business.”
“She is one of a kind, a treasure, a work of art,” said Bergen, introducing the valedictorian who will be attending CalArts in the fall. Stafford’s art and academic awards from colleges like Chapman University paralleled her student awards and outstanding fine arts achievement. Yet, it was her scholarship for outstanding Christian character that had a special meaning to the congregation.
Stafford led the speech with wit and spunk, entertaining the audience while honoring her classmates.
“We’ve all reached a point in which our learning ability disappears before absorption,” she said, continuing with her view of the importance of choices.
Another teacher, Albert Bergen, introduced Jenna Reed, a valedictorian who will attend the Moody Bible Institute in the fall, as “brash, outspoken, and vocal.”
“She is a leader, and relishes that role,” he said, highlighting her involvement in student government and her awards in swimming.
Reed wittingly compared high school to a road-trip:
“You’re trapped in a really small space for a really long time with the same people, going in the same direction … and all along the way you are asking, ‘Are we there yet?’ "
John Anderson treated his fellow students and their families to his original song, “Like Clouds.”
Graduate Joshua Crichton, introduced the main speaker of the event, Reverend John Beeman, who started off with the invitation: “Let’s hear it for the ones that were really surprised to be here,” which was followed by hollering from the student’s families.
Beeman shared his favorite five movies and their life lessons with the students before he gave a motivating speech about destiny.
“If you put your life in the destiny-maker, He has a plan for you.” He warned the seniors not to be hesitant but to jump into the pool to cause positive ripples in the world.
Beeman presented the Dr. Suess poem “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!" inserting the 64 names into the poem that was dedicated to the students.
“We have a tradition, a last moment to speak some words of blessing,” said Beeman. The seniors filed into the aisles of the church, and once parents found their child, each family huddled for intimate prayer and praise.
The senior video filled the worship center with the dance music of the top five pop/indie songs of the year. A montage of the students dancing and laughing; singing songs like “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People and “Good Life” by One Republic, made graduation and moving on from high school a reality for the seniors.
During the presentation of diplomas more pictures of each student were shared. As the student received their diploma, pictures of their childhood and senior year flashed on screens above. Alina Pop led the closing prayer.
From Psalm 23, the students held tight onto the quote, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” during the ceremony and plan to keep it in their hearts, guiding them into the next chapter of their lives.