First Presbyterian Christian Academy graduated it’s fifth and largest senior class Saturday morning at Fort Stewart’s Main Post Chapel, where families and friends gathered to bid the budding seniors farewell.
Outgoing senior Megan Gillon gave the inspirational address. She said her class started together as freshmen in 2009 — the same year Michael Jackson passed away.
"He was working on his biggest project, called ‘This is it,’" she said. "Well, class of 2013, after all our hard work and dedication, this is it."
Gillon said her class made a lasting impression on the school. Theirs is a class that will be remembered for braving freezing temperatures on the beach at Tybee Island as they helped the school win the Under Armour Finding Undeniable Challenge.
"And through it all, we have truly come together and become a family," she said.
Gillon then read the class of 2013’s scripture, "Be strong and of good courage. Do not fear or be afraid of them, for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you, nor forsake you." — Deuteronomy 31:16.
"Great students, great parents and great educators make a great school and at FPCA, we have been blessed with all of the above," FPCA board member and keynote speaker Jerry Kicklighter said as he prepared to address the seniors.
Kicklighter told the students he wished someone had offered him the advice he offered the graduating class. He spoke of the challenges the teenagers may face as they venture into college and adulthood, starting careers and families. He encouraged students to push past their fears, find the courage to work at being successful and to keep their faith and trust in the Lord, despite efforts by others to mock them for their beliefs.
"Success is to continually choose … of becoming the person that God wants you to be and the achievement of goals that God has set," he said.
Kicklighter told each senior to plan their goals in life, set specific steps and timelines to accomplish those goals and put those plans in motion.
Salutatorian Matthew Lormis said FPCA was more than just a learning environment. He thanked the faculty, administration, school workers and parents for their contributions to the senior class’ success.
"One thing is for certain: We have become a family," he said. "That is the benefit of coming to a small school. It made us brothers and sisters out of classmates … and to the parents, thank you so very much for what you have done for us. You drove us to school and then to our practices, to eventually allowing us to drive ourselves. You helped us with our trigonometry and physics homework, even though that didn’t always work. You have been with us the whole way and have helped us. We could have never done it without you."
Lormis offered final words to the class derived from Jeremiah 29:11. He said, "‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,’ And I know that God has a plan for each and every one of us. And I know that we are destined to make an impact on the world. … Let’s do it right — class of 2013-style. God bless."
Valedictorian Meredith Eby said there are challenges yet to come and asked her classmates to keep the faith and trust in God.
"As Christians, our faith is one that is based on trusting the unseen. … God cares for you," she said. "He has your future already planned out."
Head of School Trang Black introduced the award and scholarship winners. She then presented Eby, Jamie Wedincamp and Joseph Cannon with the Williams’ Award for their outstanding dedication, service and commitment while attending FPCA.
The graduates marched across the stage to receive their diplomas as the audience cheered and applauded.
Hope Armstrong, Tommy Cai, Eby, Christopher Guilfo, Lormis and Richard Lovelady graduated with honors.
Armstrong, Stephen Beasley, Cai, Eby, Gillon, Brandon Jean-Bpatiste, Lormis and Yu Ting Zhang made the 2013 National Honor Society.
The class of 2013 graduates are: Robert Abrams II, Hope Armstrong, Vanessa Bauer, Stephen Beasley, Tommy Cai, Joseph Cannon, Ben Hilton Chapman III, DeShaun Collins, Samuel Colon-Rodriguez, Aurelio Correa III, Morgan Crean, Meredith Eby, Megan Gillon, Christopher Guilfo, Ashley Marie Harris, Trevon Harris, Brandon Jean-Baptiste, Matthew Lormis, Richard Lovelady, Katharina Maier, Lupita Martinez, Hannah McGrath, Cody Smith, Garrett Thornton, Jamie Wedincamp, Daniel West and Yu-Ting Zhang.