As the students of Carroll Christian Schools got ready to move on to the next stage of their lives, they prepared some thoughts and words of wisdom for those who would follow in their footsteps.

"Enjoy your moments here," said Zach Tracey, of Westminster, at the graduation ceremony on Friday. "As a private school, yes, there are a lot of rules you wouldn't have in a public school, but it pays off in the end."

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Of the 12 graduates, some had attended the school for all 14 years of their educational careers, while others came in for only their final two years before graduation. Graduate Joe DiMaggio III is one of those whose entire schooling experience took place within the walls of Carroll Christian. He said the school may not be perfect, but it is worth your time and investment.

"It was an experience of growth and molding into the person I am today," DiMaggio said. "I learned humility and respect, and I learned that the biggest thing people can do is show kindness."

During his address to the class, salutatorian Skyler Luo brought up the theme of the Class of 2017 was to "be kind," and he challenged his fellow classmates to live that message.

In addition to the students who attended Carroll Christian full time, the graduation also featured students who attended classes through the Homeschool Oversight Program Extension, where home-schooling parents oversaw each other and students took several classes on school grounds.

Graduate Gretchen Rathert participated in the HOPE program for 12 years. She said she advised those just entering or currently in school to focus on their studies without ever neglecting extracurricular activities where you can form friendships and bond over interests.

"I feel like I've achieved so much," Rathert said. "I maybe haven't done as many things as I would have done if I was starting today, but I wouldn't change anything about my experience."

During her speech, valedictorian Hannah Nelson emphasized the school's work on the students' spiritual side as well as their academic lives. She said, after graduation, they have the freedom to pursue whatever they please. Some will pursue money, some will pursue fame and others may pursue family.

"What will we pursue?" Nelson asked.

One aspect of the Class of 2017 which was emphasized was the small size compared to the other grades at the school. Though they said it was a challenge to stand out in the school, they managed to find their niche and become leaders at the school.

Carroll Christian School graduate Hannah Nelson gets a hand with her mortarboard from Kris Tracey before the school's graduation ceremony at Church of the Open Door in Westminster Friday, June 2, 2017.
Carroll Christian School graduate Hannah Nelson gets a hand with her mortarboard from Kris Tracey before the school's graduation ceremony at Church of the Open Door in Westminster Friday, June 2, 2017. (DYLAN SLAGLE/CARROLL COUNTY TIMES)

Graduate Sean Devaney said he was excited to be a part of the class of 2017 and was proud to stand with them on the stage.

"In larger classes at some schools, some of the kids can get left out of things," Devaney said. "It's not anything like when you're in a public school of 200 kids. There's only so far you can run away before you realize there aren't too many of us. We're a close-knit group."

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