It’s been 11 years since Bob Gresh founded Grace Prep High School, and the 10th year the school has graduated seniors.
Gresh addressed the Class of 2015 at the school and talked about vision. Others might have a vision and expectations of them, like going to college right away, and could be stigmatized if they don’t. He stressed the importance of faith.
“Follow God’s vision for your life,” he said. “Don’t follow the world’s vision.”
NUMBER OF GRADUATES: More than half of the 14 graduates of the Grace Prep Class of 2015 will seek secondary education. Several will stay local and attend Penn State and the Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology.
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WHERE: State College Assembly of God Church
COLORS: Graduates were decked out in red caps and gowns, although blue also figured in the get-up. All graduates’ tassels were blue and red, while honor students wore blue sashes with their gowns. A gold 2015 also adorned tassels.
VALEDICTORIAN/SALUTATORIAN: Laryssa Tricou was class valedictorian. She will attend Penn State and study mathematics. A career in education is appealing to her, she said, and would consider teaching at her high school alma mater, but also teaching in impoverished areas, like an inner city.
Her time at Grace Prep has prepared her the next step, Tricou said.
“I think it’s given me a much better idea of myself,” she said. “It’s given me a great opportunity to make friends and interact with people.”
Claire Shearer was honored as salutatorian. She will study biochemistry at the Schreyer Honors College at Penn State.
STUDENT OF THE YEAR: Besides top academic honors, the school also recognizes a student of the year for not only academics but school spirit, attitude and other qualities.
Brandon Witmer was named student of the year. He will attend Penn State and major in wildlife and fishery science.
“It’s just been my passion,” Witmer, an outdoorsman, said.
WILD BLUE YONDER: One graduating senior will have the opportunity to fly high as a cadet at a service academy. Rebecca Layng earned an appointment to the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. Layng will be commissioned as an officer in the Air Force upon completion of her degree.
MUSIC: Seniors marched out to the Sir Edward Elgar’s traditional graduation tune “Pomp and Circumstance.” Everyone in attendance stood and most clapped along to a spirited rendition of the hymn “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.”
BLAST FROM THE PAST: Former Grace Prep principal Pat Sullivan was awarded an honorary diploma from the school Friday night. Sullivan is now a professor of mathematics at Missouri State University.
POP CULTURE REFERENCE: During his address, Gresh quoted A.A. Milne’s lovable yellow bear Winnie the Pooh twice. The second reference summed up his feelings around graduation time.
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,” he said.
Student speakers also quoted the likes of C.S. Lewis and William Shakespeare while speaking to their family, friends and classmates.
WORDS OF ADVICE: Students must complete a yearlong senior project, called a Senior Legacy project. Senior Emily Madeira won an award for her project on people with Down’s syndrome. She had some words of wisdom for the younger students of Grace Prep about completing the endeavor.
There will be times when they, like her, might not want to put in the work for the project, and they have to dig deep to finish. It’s all worth it in the end, she said.
Graduate Tian Hao “Andy” Shao was more concise with advice for underclassmen. Shao will attend Iowa State University and study computer science, and said that they should do as much as possible to prepare for the future.
“Use self-discipline,” he said.