GCA graduates 23 seniors at final ceremony

Published 11:29 am Wednesday, May 19, 2021

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On Friday, May 14, twenty-three students took the next step in their lives, graduating from Grace Christian Academy.

Held at the Perry Memorial Gymnasium, crowds of families packed the seats for the evening’s ceremony.

This year, Matthew Carnes was the salutatorian. Introduced by Wyatt Carpenter, Carnes addressed the crowd.

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“I’m sure we’re all familiar with what’s happened since March of last year, and to be honest, we didn’t really know how the year was going to go,” Carnes said, “and it wasn’t really easy to adjust at first. But, despite that, this class, with the help of the school, has persevered and made it through.” He continued, “I also want to say ‘Thank you.’ Thank you teachers and staff, and thank you parents. I’m being completely honest when I say that, without parents, this school, and its students, would not be here today.”

He went on to admonish the kids and underclassmen at the ceremony, “Enjoy your time here. I know graduation seems like it’s a ways away, but it’s not. I remember when I was in this very same room, I was eleven years old, I was here for my older brother’s graduation, and I just kept thinking to myself, ‘Man, I’m never gonna get up there, am I?’ But here I am, so don’t rush it.”

He went on to conclude, “Invest in your health, invest in your education, invest in time with your family, but most importantly, and if everybody here takes nothing else from this graduation, remember this, invest time in your relationship with God… By going to Grace, you’ve already been investing your time wisely. Seniors, think of all the late nights studying, all the sports practices you’ve been to, all the ten-minute cram sessions you did right before tests, it’s finally paid off.”

After Carnes’ speech, special recognition and awards were given. In addition to recognition of honor students, who wore gold cords, a new, blue Cougar cord was present this year, worn by students who have attended Grace since preschool. Honor society members wore white collars, while students who had been involved in Honor curriculum for all four years of high school wore white tassels. Honor students who maintained a 4.0 GPA were awarded medals. These students were: Emma Benedict, Matthew Carnes, Wyatt Carpenter, Joshua Enfinger, Isaac Friedman, Daniel Jones and Haley Scott. This year’s Star Student and Star Teacher, Benedict and Mandy Johnson, were also recognized.

This year’s valedictorian was Emma Benedict. After an introduction by Haley Scott, she gave the valedictory address.

“I would like to start off with a quote that sums up my experience at Grace: ‘The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, or even touched. They must be felt with the heart,’ by Helen Keller. As I stand here in front of my peers, I cannot think of a more perfect statement to describe our time together.”

She continued, “It is not the lessons we learned in the classroom that were most important, but the relationships we formed with each other. We made each other laugh, courted each other, and gave each other advice in tough times… And in twenty years, when we are telling our children about what we remember from high school, we will not tell them how we sifted poems or solved equations, but the friendships we had with our classmates.” She ended on a sentimental note: “I would like to leave you by saying, I am going to miss you guys so much, but the memories I made with you all are going to last forever.”

Sheri Ulm, a former Grace teacher currently teaching part-time in northeast Georgia, delivered the graduation address that evening, after an introduction by Daniel Jones, one of her former students.

“I first met this group of students when they were in eighth grade,” Ulm said. “I’ve always believed this class to be an incredibly spirited group with great chemistry. I’m extremely honored to be standing here tonight delivering your commencement address. When Cile and Joan first asked me to speak, I have to say, I thought they might be joking. Why would they want me at this graduation? I’m not a writer, a CEO, a president of any corporation, or anything like that. I am just a wife, just a momma, just a GG, just a teacher. No, I am not just a teacher, I am a teacher that loves her students, dearly. And this class before you is one such group.”

Following Ulm’s speech, the students were then presented with their diplomas and announced alumni of GCA.