2020 Graduates Demonstrate Resilience and Optimism

Back Row L to R: Clara Ann Harms, Valedictorian, Westminster Academy; Zachary Webb, Salutatorian, Calvary Christian Academy; and Dimitri Selimos, Salutatorian, Westminster Academy. Front Row L to R: Evangelia Gavrilos, Salutatorian, Boca Raton Christian School; Christine Stepkin, Valedictorian, Boca Raton Christian School; and Kaitlyn Tully, Valedictorian, Calvary Christian Academy. Photo by Justus Martin

It’s graduation season in the midst of a global pandemic. While social distancing laws have closed businesses and moved education to online formats, that hasn’t deterred the Class of 2020. “This class has been so adaptable and has remained faithful in finishing the school year in an excellent way,” said Dr. Ronald J. Farrar, Westminster Academy Upper School Principal. “They’ve been resilient and do what it takes to not just survive, but thrive,” said Stephen Smith, Boca Raton Christian School Principal.

A different kind of graduation

Despite ending their high school careers without the milestones of prom, senior trips and traditional graduation ceremonies, separated from their classmates, Calvary Christian Academy (CCA) Principal Aaron Mills described this class as an optimistic and resilient bunch. “The Class of 2020 will forever be marked as ‘different’ from the 13 classes at CCA that graduated before them. My hope is that they take this unique identification piece and make waves for Jesus in whatever environment they are led to next.”

Westminster Academy has postponed their commencement ceremony until July 10. Boca Raton Christian School plans a smaller ceremony with limited seating on June 18. However, Calvary Christian Academy hosted a “drive-in” graduation experience on May 22, when each senior student had the opportunity to walk across an outdoor stage and have their moment of recognition while maintaining social distancing protocol.

Graduates speak

“Graduation ended up being really fun,” said Kaitlyn Tully, CCA’s Valedictorian. Missing the ability to just sit down and talk with her teachers, Tully said the transition to online school hasn’t been easy, however she has enjoyed the flexibility to finish quickly. “I’ve had more time to rest. I don’t remember the last time prior to quarantine that I had just been able to sit down and take a deep breath.” Tully said she plans to attend Patrick Henry College in the fall, majoring in American Politics and Policy on a pre-law track, with hopes of working in family law.

Clara Ann Harms, Westminster Academy’s Valedictorian, said “I think this time in quarantine has built character and truly taught us as students what our strengths and weaknesses are. We missed out on a couple of pivotal traditions, but we were able to still experience many of them virtually and create new memories. We were also able to have a car parade for the seniors featuring every car decked out in school pride and spirit. That unique event will forever stay with me.”

Harms plans to study Public Policy Analysis at Duke University in the fall, focusing on International Relations. “I don’t know what the future holds, but I do think all students going forward will be more conscious of their time and the privilege it is to be able to go to school.”

Boca Raton Christian School Valedictorian Christine Stepkin admits having senior activities cancelled was difficult. “The hardest part for me was when my musical was cancelled. Then I realized, I could do one of two things: be sad about it and mope around or make the most best of a hard situation.” She chose to be positive, using the time to better herself. “I started playing piano again and I’ve found the time to read again… Going forward I think I will appreciate seeing people in person and being able to celebrate things in person. You don’t know how much something means to you until its taken away, and I want to actively aim to appreciate every moment I am given.”

Stepkin plans to attend the University of Florida and eventually become a cardiothoracic surgeon. “I hope to be able to save lives, help people and make a real difference in the world,” she said.

Looking to the future, what advice do these graduates offer?

“Trust in God,” said Tully. He knows what he’s doing. Let Him lead you and don’t let the uncertainty of today’s events stop you from making a difference in the world. Do something to show love; do something to make your mark in the world.”

“Be accommodating and flexible,” said Harms. “The future will present challenges and uncertainty, but everything will work out as it is meant to.”

“My advice is to remember that nothing is impossible,” said Stepkin. “In the words of Theodore Roosevelt, “Believe that you can, and you are halfway there.”

While their final months of high school have been anything but typical, Farrar said, “This class has experienced an amazing life lesson that no formal course at any school could teach them. For them to persevere and stick together has been an amazing testimony to them, their parents, our teaching faculty, and the strength of our community. I am very proud of each student and look forward to the amazing impact they will have in our country in the future.”

Read the Entire 2020 Graduation Section HERE.

Read last month’s article by Shelly Pond at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/heart2heart-outreach-restores-hope-to-seniors-in-isolation/

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