Cary Christian School’s class of 2021 graduated on May 20. This year our salutatorian was Avery Hunter and our valedictorian was Robert Andrews. One of the highlights of every CCS graduation is the privilege of hearing the wise and eloquent words delivered by our valedictorian and salutatorian, and this year was no exception.
At SSP, our senior service trip to Tennessee, a group of us guys decided we were going to scale one of the mountains at the conference center. So, we did. During our free time before lunch, we stood at the foot of the mountain and looked up. We were going to climb straight up the steep side. And so, we did, one step at a time. Our legs were burning (at least mine were) and we were pulling ourselves up using the trees. Then we saw it, what looked like the summit. We were so close, and it was only a few more steps. And so, we climbed it. But at the top, there were only more trees. There was no view, and the true summit of the mountain sat to our left in the distance. There was no apparent reward at the top. So, why do I remember this. Sure, we accomplished a challenge. But what made it memorable was the people, whether the other guys were my best friends or only acquaintances. This memory is not about climbing the mountain, but about the richness of brotherhood and good company.
I remember my first day at CCS back in eighth grade. I remember walking through the halls for the first time as a stranger. I was quiet, shy, and nervous. Today may have been the last time some of us walked these halls. But I know we won’t be leaving as strangers but departing as family. I have been tremendously blessed in getting to know all of you, my classmates. And if I could ever do things all over again, the only thing I would change would be to have gotten to know some of you better and sooner. Friends, let me tell you something. In every one of you, I see potential. God has set before each one of you a journey. Take it. It’s not going to be easy. There are going to be many challenges ahead of you. But climb those mountains. It’s going to hurt. You’re going to get dirty; you’re going to get cut and scraped, bashed and bruised. But take every step in steadfast faithfulness. And every time you stumble, every time you fall, God will always be there to pick you up.
Classmates, here I stand before you this evening as valedictorian. It is an honor, but like everything else in world, it will fade, and I will be forgotten. Ten years from now at CCS, will anyone know Robert Andrews? I doubt it. Ten years from now, will you remember who the valedictorian of your grade was? I hope not. I hope you remember me as Robert Andrews, not as the valedictorian. I hope you remember me as a friend, as someone who’s kind, someone who showed love, and someone who was there for you if ever you needed it. Friends, I will never forget you. I have never attended a school with such great people, both teachers and classmates.
Classmates, it is my prayer that you find brothers and sisters in college to climb your mountains with you. Ecclesiastes tells us, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” Classmates, find new friends. As you climb to the tops of your mountains, laugh, spread smiles, and share tears with friends. Over the next few months, all of us will start making new friends and begin to leave old ones. And some of us may never see each other again. But brothers and sisters, it my hope to see you again in the next life as we smile and dance in streets never touched by darkness.
And teachers, I wish to thank every one of you, for the love you poured out into each one of our lives. Mrs. Baker, thank you for the patience that you have showed us and your love for teaching that made class fun. Mrs. McDonald, I’ve had you twice, and it still amazes me that even though you teach the same things year after year, you are always so enthusiastic about the material. You’re the only person I know who gets excited about gravity to the point of jumping and shouting. Mrs. McDonald, I wish you well as you prepare to begin a new chapter in life as a student in the medical field. Mr. Halbrook, though you are not here this evening, I have to tell you I love your dry humor and the Deep Thoughts that you let Ethan and me read before every class period. Thank you for guiding us in writing our biggest paper yet, our senior thesis. Mr. Bates, while I didn’t have you this year, I will always remember your classic, “Welcome to Monday math class.” Even though calculus was the hardest class I have ever taken, thank you for helping me through it. Mrs. Ficken, sometimes I half expect it snow in your classroom because of how cold you turn the thermostat to. Thank you so much for your intense passion for math that allowed you to be a great teacher. Mrs. Roseborough, thank you so much for being real with us. We missed you very much when you were gone, and I hope the best for you as you will be leaving CCS. Mr. Terhune, you’re very quirky and have an interesting sense of humor. You will be remembered for being a friend to many of us. Mrs. Clarkson, I loved your class. You always kept things interesting and struck a perfect balance between having fun and getting work done. Thank you for being a phenomenal teacher. Mrs. McGrath, I want to thank you for the love that you have showed us over the past three years since you joined Cary Christian School. I will never forget the fun memories our seminar class made, and we will miss you as we leave for college. And to all the other teachers that I have had throughout high school, thank you.
Cary Christian School, thank you. This is the best school I have ever attended. But it is time for us to move on. It is time for us to do bigger things. To climb more mountains. To make new friends. And to build new memories. Classmates, it has been truly a blessing to have spent the past five years with you. Teachers, it has been truly a blessing to be taught by you. And Cary Christian School, it has been truly a blessing to attend here. Thank you.