DERBY – “Don’t stop believing” was the message Anna Ste. Marie, United Christian Academy's valedictorian, sent to her fellow classmates during the school’s graduation commencement, held at the Church of God, Saturday.
Ste. Marie’s words referred to the hit song by Journey.
“This rock ballad of epic proportions released in 1981 can be looked at as another song belted out at every wedding, prom and karaoke party, or it can be looked at as one of the deepest and most propelling statements of modern time,” Ste. Marie told her fellow graduates. “As simple, overstated and un-philosophical as it may seem, when looking at each of our futures, we should use this guideline for success.”
Ste. Marie gave a personal message to each of her fellow graduates, who included Kristen Elizabeth Hosford, Isaac Jacob Lafoe, and Yida (Edward) Wang.
“I don’t think there is another class in the world as attached as ours,” Ste. Marie said. “Surely, we will feel the strain of the real world pulling us apart, but let’s believe in unity and sticking together.”
Ste. Marie reminded her fellow classmates that they belonged to the smallest class to graduate since 1998.
“Each of these young people is special,” said Head of School Dr. Richard O’Hara, during his welcoming remarks. “Each of them has been endowed by God with talents and abilities that they will continue to develop as they mature into young men and women. They will take their place in the church and society.”
The graduates are works in progress, O’Hara said.
This year’s class had two firsts for the school. Wang was the first Chinese student to receive a diploma from U.C.A. Hosford is the first student to attend the school since first grade.
Commencement Speaker Rev. Lawrence Czelusta, who serves on the board of directors and chairs U.C.A’s board of overseers, said Saturday was just the beginning for attending graduations. Commencement speakers at college graduations get paid thousands of dollars and speak very long.
“I’m doing this for free and you get what you paid for,” Czelusta said as the crowd exploded with laughter. Speaking to the graduates, Czelusta said, “You guys have done an awful lot of hard work and you deserve good feelings and the congratulations of today.”
Czelusta told the graduates that their teachers hope they remember something they learned during their years of education. However, all those years are just the stepping stones to what they will learn in the next stage of their lives.
“If you do not use it, you will lose it,” Czelusta said of their lessons. He stressed the students should not forget that the God of the Bible is the God of all knowledge and the God of all understanding. “You must not forget this; you must not. U.C.A has endeavored to teach everything it teaches under the umbrella of God’s word.”
Czelusta told the class not to think of graduation as the “Big One” in regards to the rite of passage, as everyone has rites of passages through their lives.
“The world awaits you and it has a message for you,” he said. “It has a view; it has a lens by which it wants you to see everything else. It is a lens we call secularism, naturalism and pragmatism. It will want you to see everything through that lens. In fact, in the days ahead, it will want you to see the Bible through the lens of the world.”
During the graduation, the concert choir under the direction of Joann Lawson performed “Everlasting God” and “Blessing.” Later, Lafoe and Ste. Marie performed a special musical selection in honor of the Class of 2012.
Ste. Marie received the Bible Award and the American Government Award. Wang received the English Award, Science Award and Mathematics Award.
Ste. Marie also received a $25,500 St. Michael’s College Merit Award, a $5,000 Catholic Parish Scholarship and $500 Eli Goss Memorial Scholarship Award. Lafoe received a $13,000 Norwich University Academic Recognition Award, $500 from the Orleans County Board of Realtors and $500 Eli Goss Memorial Award.
Hosford will be entering the workforce and didn’t apply for scholarships. Wang, an international student, is not eligible for scholarships in his first year.
Junior Lydia Saaman and her brother Paul Saaman, a sophomore, received the Crusader Award. The Crusader is given to one male student and one female student who most exemplify the attributes of personal holiness, servant leadership and academic excellence.
Rev. Lawrence Wall performed the invocation and benediction. Ruth Genco, organist, did the prelude and postlude.