Shelby Rittman’s smile was easy to spot amid a sea of flying graduation caps.
As one of 50 graduating seniors at Cary Christian School Thursday, Rittman said she will miss the friends she has made – many of whom shared classrooms since grade school.
“We’ve all become family,” Rittman said, pulling at the yellow tassel dangling from her cap. After the ceremony Rittman traded hugs with classmates.
And those close-knit relationships extended to faculty and administrators. Principal Dell Cook said the celebration was bittersweet. As he walked past students, extending his hand for high-fives and trading jokes, Cook said the class holds a special place in his heart.
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“Each class has it’s own personality,” he said. “They are easy to love.”
Before the ceremony, Cook led the students in a prayer. Standing in a circle, they held each other’s hands tightly and a few choked back tears.
But along with the sadness of leaving dear friends behind, there was plenty of hope to be found as students pondered their futures.
“I know that what I learned at this school is really going to help me in the future,” said senior Maggie Baker. “I fell like I’m prepared for the world. They have done an incredible job allowing us to pursue our own interests.”
Parents, family and friends packed the small gymnasium as the soon-to-be graduates filed onto the floor.
Valedictorian Margaret Miller described the mixed emotions many classmates were feeling. “I want to graduate and live my life, but I want to be sheltered at home at the same time. But we can’t have both.”
“The most exciting part about graduation is God’s love,” she added.
Salutatorian Erin Pechacek shared humorous and poignant stories about her classmates. “In sixth grade… we didn’t know what we were in for,” she said, recalling an attempt to recreate the American Idol competition at the school – complete with versions of the TV show’s hosts. “I’ll miss you all more than anything. You’re a bunch of delightful oddballs.”
For Cook, the class is another success story for the school.
“It’s a milestone for them and for us,” he said. “We hope and pray they are going out into the world with the light of God.”