Harford Christian School administrators, parents and supporters bid farewell to the second-largest graduating class in the school's 48-year-history Friday night.
The 49-member Class of 2014 is second only to the Darlington school's Class of 2012, which had 50 members, Principal Bryan Wilson told the graduates and their families who assembled in the school gymnasium for Friday's commencement ceremony.
He noted the Class of 2014 set the record for number of snow days with 13, however, with the intense winter of 2013-2014..
"This group of seniors is a delightful collection of students," Wilson said.
Harford Christian School is a ministry of the Reformation Bible Church, according to its website, and is designed to "produce excellent ambassadors for Christ." It serves students who are in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
The students who spoke during the commencement showed how effective those teachings have been.
"We ask that you pray that The Lord's face shine on each and every member of this graduating class," graduate Paige Englehart told the audience in her welcoming remarks.
Salutatory, valedictory addresses
Hannah Jacques is the Class of 2014's salutatorian.
She thanked her parents "for pushing me to be the best that I can be and pointing me toward Jesus."
She also thanked the school's faculty members who had not only been teachers and coaches, "but also our mentors."
"Thank you for being patient with us, for motivating us and for pushing us to succeed every day," Hannah said.
Hannah also challenged her classmates to "always do what you are afraid to do," and she reminded them that God "wants us to trust him and run into the future with courage."
Valedictorian Patricia Good reminded her classmates that everyone only gets one life, and that it should not be wasted.
She pleaded with her fellow graduates that "may we not be caught at the end of our lives saying with heartbreaking regret" that their lives had been wasted.
"It is so easy to get sucked into the American Dream that is all about us," she warned.
Patricia said a life spent in pursuit of material goods is wasted, and encouraged them to "spend our entire lives for Christ," who she said is "the all-consuming passion of our souls."
"Let's become magnificent representations of the power of God, of the glory of God," she said.
Greg Purdy, president of the Harford Christian Educational Foundation, which raises funds to support the school, presented a $10,000 grant to the school during the commencement ceremony.
John McKnight, chairman of the school's board of directors, noted the school is not supported by tuition alone, and income must be raised from other sources to keep tuition at an affordable level.
"We want Christian education to be available for any family that desires Christian education," he said.
Friday's commencement speaker was a person who is familiar with Harford Christian School: Lloyd Scarborough III, a 2003 graduate of the school who recently earned his doctorate from Pennsylvania State University.
"It's great to have a person who is so much a part of us with so much achievements coming back to speak to seniors," McKnight said.
Scarborough noted the graduates have many expectations, but he cautioned them that the degree to which they will be fulfilled "depends on how closely they match the will of God."
"With biblically-based expectations you will avoid sickness of heart," he said.
School administrators continued their commencement tradition of having the principal speak briefly about each graduate as she or she is called to receive their diploma, even with 49 graduates.
Wilson allowed the audience a brief "stand and stretch break" about halfway through the list of graduates.
He took a brief moment to honor the family of one graduate, Reagan Phillips.
As a member of a military family, Reagan has had to complete several years of her schooling at Harford Christian abroad – including her last two years of high school – as her father, Army Col. Robert Phillips, has been stationed in Germany.
Wilson said Reagan was able to remain enrolled at Harford Christian and complete her course work in Germany. She flew back to Maryland for various senior year activities, and her parents, 13-year-old brother Robert III and sister Riley, 15, were on hand for the graduation Friday.
Wilson said the Harford Christian community was able to gain insight into the difficulties of being a military family.
"The Phillips family stands together this evening, because all of them paid dearly for our freedom," he said.
The audience gave Reagan and her family a standing ovation.
Robert and Susan Phillips said after the ceremony that Reagan, who had been a HCS student since second grade, completed her courses in Germany through a mix of distance learning with Harford Christian and classes offered by the American school in her father's base in Stuttgart, classes which transferred back to HCS.
"It was nice that she was able to come back and graduate with so many of her friend that she started her school career with," Robert Phillips, who has also served in Afghanistan, said.
Susan Phillips noted her younger children are going through the same process as Reagan to complete their HCS course work while overseas.
"Mr. Wilson and the school have been very supportive," she said.