The 2016 Oaks Christian School senior class was commissioned to go out it into the world and be a bunch of nuts.
“I commission you for life after high school to go out and be a nut that will save people when they fall,” said keynote speaker Dr. Jon Wallace, president of Azusa Pacific University, referring to a chock stone, metal wedge threaded on a wire that climbers place into rock crevices to keep from falling.
Dr. Wallace challenged the graduates to use their gifts and abilities to be the nuts that will save people in a world that needs healing.
“I believe that God has aligned you with unique characteristics of this (millennial) generation in a culture that is so divided,” he shared. “Go out and save the world.”
And with that words ringing in their years, the OCS seniors, 229 strong, flipped their tassels, collected their diplomas and stepped out to be begin their training as future nurses, artists, athletes, filmmakers, engineers, teachers and other professionals.
Indeed, the seniors achieves some remarkable feats as OCS Lions: they logged over 150,000 hours of community service, completed mission trips in eight countries and garnered $7million in college scholarships. Their class gift was the establishment of an alumni park on campus that will include a commemorative brick wall for alumni to leave a lasting message.
Sharing reflections of the past four years, Claire Williams reminded her peers they had been cared for and loved by the faculty and staff. “Let’s pay it forward and do them proud,” she encouraged. Fellow senior Lee Pitt added, “We have the opportunity to be leaders in our generation. Let’s use all our knowledge and ability to be a light in the world.”
Malia Szyman was named salutatorian for her 4.74 GPA. She was lauded as an incredible volunteer working with homeless youth and adults, special needs children and spending three months in an orphanage in Mexico. She will attend the University of Pennsylvania as a nursing major.
Amanda Peters, GPA of 4.83, attending University of Chicago as a math major, was the valedictorian. She took 19 AP classes, was in the top five of all-time OCS scholars and volunteered countless hours at Children’s Hunger Fund.
Peters acknowledge the temptation for high school seniors to bolt and never look back, and for others to dwell in the longing and sadness of days gone by. She admonished her peers to avoid both those extremes.
“We should neither abandon nor dwell on our high school experience, but should instead fulfill it,” she reflected. That fulfillment, she elaborated, comes by expressing gratitude to the faculty and staff, parents and peers, and cultivating a social and moral perspective that will allow the graduates to be persons of influence, rightly handling future challenges.
Also honored at the ceremony was English Department Chair Christi Goeser the recipient of the Atsinger Award for Teaching Excellence. Goeser was recognized for her deep love of students, strength of character and sharp intellect.
Head prefect Kendall Zeile received the Weinberg Spiritual Leadership Award for her compassion, cheerfulness and kindness, as well as the Headmaster’s Award for her intelligence and drive. She has been a Top 10 Scholar all four years and is a National Society Honor member.
Football powerhouse and USC commit Michael Pittman received the Dallas Athletic Distinction Award for his incredible achievements including being named a Parade Magazine All-American, U.S. Army All-American, Marmonte League co-MVP and Ventura County Star co-Player of the Year.
The Dallas Price-Van Breda Artistic Expression Award went to Greer Gustavson, who served this year high school art prefect and is an exceptional dancer.
Lauren Dewey received the David Price Leadership Award for her exemplary character and leadership skills grounded in spiritual formation which are recognized by faculty and staff and peers alike.