Evangel Christian School celebrates 20th annual graduation ceremony

Published 9:40 am Tuesday, May 21, 2024

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

PELHAM – On Saturday, May 18, 147 students in Evangel Christian School’s class of 2024 proudly walked into the auditorium of the Church at Brook Hills under the loving watch of their friends and family as they took part in the school’s 20th annual commencement ceremony.

The ECS class of 2024, which in total is made up of 170 graduates, has already seen 22 percent of all students report that they have earned scholarship offers from 25 different colleges and universities that now total $4.2 million so far—with more expected to be announced in the coming weeks.

“As administrator of Evangel Christian School, it is a joy to gather today to celebrate the accomplishments of the ECS class of 2024 graduates and rejoice in God’s faithfulness to each of them,” ECS Administrator Bill Snuggs said.

After officially beginning the commencement ceremony by the reading of an opening prayer delivered by class salutatorian Austyn Leah Mallette, Snuggs further introduced Gabriel Yaeger, who served as the class of 2024’s valedictorian.

Yaeger spoke to the audience and his fellow graduates on the grand importance of the day and offered insight about the opportunities that lay ahead for each of them.

“This graduation means a lot to us,” Yaeger said. “It is the culmination of years of hard work that represents the skills we learned and the challenges we’ve overcome. It represents our accomplishments, the classes we’ve finished, the awards and the championships that we’ve won. It represents relationships with teachers, counselors and coaches who all taught us important lessons and helped us develop our character in the classroom and on the field. It represents relationships with friends who encouraged us and brought us laughter and with our parents and our loved ones who gave us the guidance, support and discipline we needed to become who we are now.”

Yaeger further identified the ceremony as the final words in an ending chapter, with each graduate readying to begin the first words of the next.

In that development, he said that all of the graduates need not be anxious or worried about the road ahead and first cited Jeremiah 29:11.

“Should we follow the path the Lord has in store for us, we will be led to hope and a future in Christ,” Yaeger said. “This new chapter will bring many new opportunities for us—(those) with new and exciting experiences that will open our eyes to the majesty of God’s creation.”

Yaeger also encouraged his fellow graduates to rely on their faith when inevitable hardships come.

“As Christians we have the promise that God blesses us victories and protects us in our struggles,” Yaeger said. “Out of both we can emerge joyful. We can rejoice with praise no matter what the circumstances may be, because no matter what is going on in our lives God is always there right by our side.”

Prior to the awarding of the diplomas, Snuggs also announced that Sweden Scott Petry had been selected as the recipient of the 20th annual Lightning Scholarship in the amount of $1,500.

The Lightning Scholarship has been an annual tradition at ECS since its inaugural year of 2004, and is meant to honor and thank the graduate who has most demonstrated their dedication in furthering the goals and vision of ECS through service to its mission.

Petry, who will next study journalism at the University of Alabama, was invited to deliver the charge to her fellow graduates and spoke to them on the subject of “being big.”

“Please remember two words I am about to say today, over and over—be big,” Petry said.

Petry told of how the phrase had been instilled in her by her father, who began telling it to her and her sister when Petry was 11 years old.

“He said this probably more than any phrase I have ever heard used in my life,” Petry said. “Those two words have perhaps had the biggest impact on the way that I live—and the fact that they have come from one of my best friends has added to that.”

Petry revealed that her father had taken the phrase from a TED talk and used it to encourage his daughters to be confident in themselves, despite growing up in a world where that isn’t made easy.

“I think I’ve come up with my own interpretation of what ‘be big’ means to me,” she said. “It means to be bigger than my adversaries, to be bigger than my toughest days, lowest moments and moments of hopelessness. To be bigger than those who try to make me feel small. Be bigger than the trials of this world. Be bigger by remembering that I can be big in Jesus.”

Petry then turned the phrase toward her fellow graduates in her issuance of the graduation charge, encouraging all of her classmates to live by the words that have helped form her.

“Go into the world remembering that the things that are hard are big, but your God is bigger,” she said. “And (know) that in Him, you are big. Now go, be big.”

As homeschooled students, the graduates were presented with their diplomas by their parents who were announced alongside their respective graduate before taking the stage and having their photo taken. Parents and graduates then descended the stage together before retaking their seats.

This year’s graduation proved to be the largest in the school’s history. ECS’ 20th annual commencement ceremony also proved to be the first in the school’s existence to exceed an hour in length, with the ceremony passing the mark by mere minutes as the class of 2024 turned their tassels, threw their caps and presented the class of 2025 with their class lightning bolt—declaring them the new official senior class of ECS.