Briarwood celebrates class of 2021 with graduation ceremony

By WILLIAM MARLOW / Special to the Reporter

Briarwood Christian School held a graduation ceremony for its Class of 2021 on Sunday, May 16, at Briarwood Presbyterian Church, marking one of the school’s first in-person graduations at the church since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The ceremony was held at the church’s worship center and included remarks from Harry Reeder, the senior pastor at Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Briarwood High School Principal Shawn Brower and Superintendent Stephen Steiner.

Reeder welcomed attendees and congratulated this year’s class of graduates on their achievement, but reminded them that is just the beginning of their journey, and said each student had a greater purpose in God’s divine plan.

“While we celebrate what God brings us through achievement, we realize there are no ends for us. Just when we get to the end of one assignment, God by His grace takes us on to the next one. So we praise God for what he had done today for these students,” he said.

A total of 144 members of the school’s senior class received their diplomas on Sunday. For many students that next phase of life includes college or some form of post-secondary education.

For Salutatorian Luke Alan Wolf, it means joining the United States Air Force Academy and serving his country. Wolf was selected as one of approximately 15,000 National Merit Finalists in the country to be awarded this scholarship.

Wolf is not alone in his pursuit for academic excellence. According to Wolf, Briarwood’s Class of 2021 earned more than $10 million in scholarships, and had more students signed to college sports teams than any previous graduation class in the history of Briarwood High School.

However, Wolf said those things are not what makes his class special. He cherishes his time at Briarwood because he not only found great mentors, but a family.

“My fellow classmates, we need to make sure not to take this for granted. We have not just been blessed, but also have a faculty and staff that really cares about us,” he said.

He specifically admired his class’s courage in confronting the COVID-19 pandemic over this past year.

“What I love about our class is what we do and who we are. This past year was a crazy one to say the least. The pandemic took away many of the experiences we look forward to as seniors,” he said. “Fear and uncertainty seemed to rain from all-around us, but every opportunity this class had, we stepped up and that is exactly what we did.”

Valedictorian Mason Douglas Mathias also admired his class’s resilience in face of the pandemic, and said his class can now again look to the future.

Mathias, a Star Wars fan, compared his graduating class’ current moment to a scene in the movie, “Star Wars: A New Hope,” in which the film’s protagonist, Luke Skywalker, gazes at the twin suns of his home planet of Tatooine one last time before departing to become a Jedi and save the galaxy.

“It is a pretty poignant story because this is where we find ourselves today,” he said. “The sun is setting on the crazy and wonderful journey that is high school, and a new one is about to begin, bigger and better than before.”

Mathias was selected as a National Merit Scholar, and is one of approximately 2,500 National Merit Finalists in the county to be awarded this scholarship. He will attend Auburn University in the fall.

Photos available at Shelbycountyphotos.com.