About 250 people gathered in the gymnasium of Cornerstone Christian Academy in Sycamore on Friday evening to honor the 12 members of its 2014 high school graduating class.
Abigail Hill from Genoa, the class valedictorian who plans to study physical therapy at Trinity International University in Deerfield, enjoyed being a part of such a small class.
“We’re one big, happy family that just loves each other and wants what’s best for each other,” said Hill.
She said the school did an excellent job preparing her academically.
“The classes we take and just how hard the teachers push us to be our best and to give 100 percent no matter what we do has really helped me prepare for college,” said Hill.
Although their class was small and tight-knit, the future plans of the graduates are extremely diverse.
Andrew Stahl from Sycamore plans to attend Kishwaukee College and wants to be a professional musician. He came to Cornerstone in seventh grade after attending public school.
“It was quite a shock,” said Stahl.
“Being able to be in community with such a small amount of people was really good, because of the emphasis that is put on each class. Really, the whole high school is family,” said Stahl. “I really feel like this is different and better than anything anywhere else has to offer.”
Michael Liu came to Cornerstone last year as a foreign exchange student and decided to stay another year to graduate from the school. His parents, Peter and Mary Liu, traveled from Tianjin, China (near Beijing) to be there for his graduation.
Michael plans to study Business and Economics at Wheaton College next year with the hope of returning to China and working for an investment company “to honor God” once he completes his studies.
“I had two really fun years and made lots of friends. This is just like my second family here,” said Liu about his experience at Cornerstone.
The graduation ceremony lasted a little more than an hour, with the shortest portion possibly being the actual conferment of the diplomas.
The 12 graduates were Monica Bestler, Caleb Guio, Logan Hickman, Abigail Hill, Caleb Hudson, Darshon Kelly Johnson, Nicholas Ladas, Michael Liu, Tyler Mathes, Sarah Pauling, Andrew Stahl, and Karina Torres.
Hill, Hudson, Liu, and Mathes graduated Summa cum laude (3.90-4.00 gpa).
Jeremiah Mills and Nehemiah Wagnaar, who were home-schooled but competed in athletics for Cornerstone, were also mentioned.
After the Processional, National Anthem, and Invocation, a former president of the school board who passed away in December, Victor Graff, was remembered. It was announced that a $1000 scholarship would be given in his name to two students attending Christian schools, Abigail Hill and Tyler Mathes.
Next, a birth-to-present slideshow of memories for each graduate was shown, complete with personalized theme songs for each student.
The Salutatorian, Caleb Hudson, then gave an address, which he said he re-wrote just hours before. He challenged his fellow graduates “to be greater than what we suffer.”
In her valedictory address, Abigail Hill began tearfully, reminiscing about her fourteen years at Cornerstone Christian Academy, describing the time as “incredibly amazing and very memorable.”
In a sentiment expressed many times during and after the ceremony, she thanked the parents for their sacrifices to send them to Cornerstone.
After quoting the class theme scripture, Ephesians 2:10, she exhorted her peers to let God use them for good works.
Bob Edwards, the pastor of 1st Baptist Church in DeKalb who has been a Bible teacher at the school for the past eight years spoke fondly of his time teaching the current graduates.
“This class has been a favorite of mine for a long time,” said Edwards.
Tim Hays, the K-12 Principal, expressed his thoughts about the 2014 Cornerstone graduating class.
“Each of them has shown great leadership at our school and demonstrated Christ-like behavior for their fellow students, and I think they’re going to be very successful in their lives in the future,” said Hays.