11 turn tassels at GCA

Published 6:36 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2011

GRACE’S 11 GRADUATES GATHER following their ceremony on Friday.


Director of Development

Grace Christian Academy held commencement exercises for 11 seniors on Friday at the Perry Gymnasium.

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Upper School Principal Steve Murr welcomed everyone followed by an opening prayer from Pastor Russell Carlisle. Special music was performed by senior Sydney Harrell and Jeff Eeningenburg.

Class President Taylor McDonald presented the annual Bob Jones Benaiah Medallion to the 2011 Senior Class President, Christina Greene.

A salutatory address was given by both T.J. Carlisle and Tad Young, followed by the valedictory address from Taylor McDonald.

President and CEO of Ponder Enterprises and publisher of The Donalsonville News, Dan Ponder gave the graduation address.

Ponder, who served in the Georgia House of Representatives for several years and grew up on a farm, said education is a key to unlock many doors.

“For many years, I have said that the problems here in southwest Georgia can only be solved by ourselves and that it could only be done through education. You are part of my hope for the future,” Ponder told the graduates.

He said education isn’t just about a diploma and a set of numbers.

“Education is also about not accepting the status quo,” Ponder said. “It is about looking in the mirror and saying to yourself that ‘I can do better.’ It is about working and learning from those like you and those different from you. It is about making the personal sacrifices so that you become better equipped to compete in a rapidly changing world.”

As an illustration, Ponder said when he was born, 70 percent of the jobs in Georgia did not require an education beyond high school. By the time his children were in the first grade, one-third of the jobs were open to the unskilled. Today, only 15 percent of the jobs are available to those without an education or skill, said Ponder.

Even on the farm, Ponder said when he was born, there were 225,000 farmers in Georgia out of a population of 3.4 million.

“Today, we have more than three times the population, but only one-fifth of the number of farmers. In fact, there are more private security guards in Georgia than there are farmers,” Ponder said.

Some advice Ponder gave the graduates is to not be in such a hurry.

“The world is changing so fast, and you must change with it,” Ponder said. “But the average American today will change careers at least seven times before he retires. The more educated you are, the more likely you are to make those changes on your own terms.”

He also said remember your roots, find good friends, believe in something greater than yourself, hold on to your faith and you are on a journey.

The presentation of diplomas were given out by Upper School Principal Steve Murr and School Board Chairman Erwin Harrell.

A slide-show presentation celebrating each of the seniors was enjoyed by all the family and friends at the end of the ceremony. Closing prayer was given by Pastor Andy McQuaid.

The 11 seniors are Brock Bailey, Kenneth Burke, T.J. Carlisle, Nolan Freeman, Sidney Harrell, Sara Hodges, Marcus King, Taylor McDonald, Ladson Simmons, Sloane Wiggins and Tad Young.

GRACE CHRISTIAN ACADEMY’S top 3 graduates show their diplomas. From the left, are, Tad Young, co-salutatorian; valedictorian Tyler McDonald, and T.J. Carlisle, co-salutatorian.