Opening with the themes of love and grace, the Oaks Christian School commencement ceremony celebrated the Class of 2017. The seniors are the 15th graduating class to receive their diplomas and embrace their future while becoming the newest ambassadors of the OCS motto of "Minds for Leadership and Hearts for Service."
Through student testimonies, the valedictory address and the keynote speech, students were encouraged to love at all times, extend grace to those around them, take leaps of faith, and keep God number one always.
Student testimonies from Beau Russell and Megan Thornton focused on the love and grace the senior class has both received and exemplified. Thornton, who attended Oaks Christian for seven years and was on mock trial, Lions Voice and theatre, characterized her class as "students of courage," who have overcome adversity and challenges through the power of love. She encouraged her class mates to remember the joy and laughter of their OCS years, but above all else to keep loving others.
As a struggling academic student, Russell transferred to Oaks Christian as a sophomore and immediately felt the care and compassion of faculty, staff, and his track and field coaches who were genuinely interested in his success and well-being. "People cared here," he said, and that allowed him to finish high school strong and grow as a young man.
Class valedictorian Micaela Cole, who will attend USC as a computer science and business administration major, shared that she recently fulfilled a bucket list wish of skydiving from an airplane at 18,000 feet above the earth. Doing so required preparation, but ultimately it was also a leap of faith as stood on the edge of the open door before taking the plunge.
"We will constantly be taking leaps of faith," she said. She reminded her class how well prepared they are for those leaps because of the education they have received at Oaks Christian, and that God will either catch them when they fall or give them wings to soar.
Class President Nikolai Arrasmith presented the senior gift to the school—a tribute wall honoring all OCS past and future alumni in any branch of the United States military. The current 30 alumni who have served or are still serving will be joined now by two from the Class of 2017- Liam Kelly joining the U.S. Marines Corps and Maxwell Carson attending the U.S. Air Force Academy.
Students were also honored with awards that exemplify academic excellence, artistic expression, athletic distinction, spiritual service and the "heart of an OCS lion."
Skylar White was the recipient of the Weinberg Spiritual Leadership Award for her authentic pursuit of Christ and her gentle strength and humility. She will study psychology and theology at Baylor University. Football standout and Stanford-bound senior Colby Parkinson received the Dallas Athletic Distinction Award for his numerous athletic achievements, as well as his academic honors and integrity of character. Elizabeth Sams was named the Dallas Price-Van Breda Artistic Expression winner for her contributions to the performing arts through her many lead roles and vocal abilities and accomplishments. Head Prefect Tatum Shore was awarded the David Price Leadership award for always being at the head of the line to serve with compassion. She will attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to major in industrial engineering. Brooke Bryan—who, with junior Erik Hainer, started the Catalyst Coffee shop on campus—received the Head of School award as a person who embodies the Oaks Christian mission. She will attend Liberty University and major in business and theology.
A new award this year was the Jefferson Lee and Brendon Thomas Crockett Courage award in honor of the Crockett brothers, OCS alumni, who lost their life in a tragic car accident in 2016. The award recognizes the quiet courage of a student whose attitude of "I will try again tomorrow," wins the day. Kendal Koorenny, who has battled Lyme disease and founded HealthandHighHeels.org to chronicle her journey, was the recipient. She will study nutritional science at UC Davis.
Math teacher Wendy Klaiber won the Astinger Teaching Excellence Award for her professional competence and student engagement. She received a standing ovation from the senior class.
Before the much-anticipated presentation of diplomas and the traditional tassel turning, Sean Thornton, senior pastor of Calvary Community Church, delivered the keynote address to the class. First and foremost, he encouraged them to make God a priority every day, even if it is as simple as starting the day with a "Good morning, Lord," or scripture reading. He further directed them to surround themselves with the right people, make good choices, be quick to forgive and be kind to the ignored or marginalized.
Highlights of the Class of 2017 include:
50 athletes playing in Division 1 schools
50 pursuing a STEM degree
18 art majors
94% attending 4 year
97% accepted to a 4 year
98% attending college
Average SAT: 1270
Average ACT: 27
Accepted Highly Selective: 41%
Attending Highly Selective: 32%
Outside CA: 55%
29 different states, 2 countries
$6.5 million in scholarships
Attending 97 different colleges
Accepted to 238 different colleges