“This graduation will be like no other you’ve experienced before,” promised Harmony Christian School Administrator Kevin Barry, as he welcomed a large crowd of family and friends Friday evening.
The ceremony was the 27th graduation held by the private school, and in addition to the traditional speeches and conferring of diplomas, also featured three special performances by graduating seniors and a slideshow of the graduating class.
Barry noted that there were several families for whom this was their second or third graduation ceremony at Harmony, and for one family it was their fourth—but said that “each of the previous 26 graduations were unique and this one is as well.”
Easily the most emotional portion of the ceremony was the Honoring of Parents, a tradition unique to Harmony that was packed with tears, laughter and many hugs.
Each graduating student had written a letter to their parents and stood with their parents in the audience while a fellow student read their letter from the podium. The letters thanked the parents for their unwavering support and the many things they had done over the years, from waking them up for school to helping with homework, to serving as their “Momager” and coaching. They spoke with gratitude for the sacrifices they had made and the wisdom they had imparted—whether they had appreciated it at the time or not.
Salutatorian Heather Cockburn added that it wasn’t just their parents they wanted to thank.
“To everyone here tonight, whether it be faculty, teachers, coaches, friends or family, you have all played a huge role in the lives of [the graduating class],” said Cockburn. “I want to personally thank you for your constant support of us, whether it be academically, emotionally or spiritually. Because without it, some of us would not be where we are tonight.”
Cockburn and Valedictorian Rachel Terracino both spoke of their gratitude for their fellow classmates and the opportunity to get to know them and grow together during their time at Harmony.
“Over the years, through the good times and bad, we matured, formed friendships, supported and relied on each other, and that all led us here, right now, getting ready to leave and start our lives as adults. I know—scary!” said Cockburn.
That fear of the future, of change, was also a focal point for Timothy Montgomery, a teacher from the school’s math department and the commencement speaker.
Montgomery spoke of a boy named Daniel from the Bible, noting that he and his family lived in difficult times. When he was a young man, most likely younger than those waiting on the stage for their high school diplomas, an invading army conquered his city and took him captive along with many others, forcing them all to march more than 800 miles to the foreign land of Babylon. His parents were most likely killed.
“The lives of Daniel and his friends changed significantly that day, forever,” said Montgomery. “Your life is also moving forward. You can’t go back.”
Montgomery explained that when Daniel arrived in Babylon, his captors put him in school. He was told to study the Babylonian language, culture, religion, literature and technology. He didn’t have a choice. If he refused or didn’t make progress, he would be sold as a slave.
“Talk about motivation for school,” said Montgomery.
Montgomery stated that despite everything Daniel had already been through and the struggles he found himself in, he still worked hard, trusted God and stood firm in his beliefs—and those efforts were blessed by God.
“As you leave Harmony, you will face trials, of that much, I am sure,” said Montgomery. “You will be faced with challenges that sometimes can be really, really hard. Some of you are facing hard challenges now, trying to figure out what the next step is. Don’t be afraid to seek God.”
Montgomery encouraged the graduating class to follow God faithfully and put passion, energy and effort into whatever path they take as they move through life.
Salutatorian Heather Cockburn gave a similar charge.
“I’d like to encourage everyone here—not just those of us graduating—to do something I’ve recently been pushing myself to do. As we all grow and change, especially us recent graduates, I know we are all nervous about leaving home, our future jobs, the stressful times in our lives and all of the unknowns. However, it is important to try new things and push ourselves out of our comfort zones while relying on God and trusting that he will lead us down the right path He has chosen for us—because if we don’t, we won’t be able to experience life at its fullest and all of the joy God has for us in the future,” said Cockburn.
Class Valedictorian Rachel Terracino also encouraged her class to have courage.
“[Wherever] your path leads you, I challenge you to face it head on. We will be challenged not only by new friends, workloads and professors, but also in our faith.”
“No matter where our futures lead us, we each have special God-given attributes that will help us through the difficult times,” said Terracino. “We serve a God that will always be there in our times of need, we can always count on Him. Whether it be continuing on to work, school or the military, we can have confidence that although it may be difficult at times, we can find strength in Him to make it through.”
Harmony Christian School is located on Route 211 in the Town of Wallkill, just outside Montgomery. Visit them online at: www.harmonychristianschool.com.
Graduating class of 2019