Birchwood Christian School graduates small class with big plans

Thursday, May 18, 2017 - 15:23
  • Star photo by Kirsten Swann Valedictorian Collin Becker poses for photographs with his family after a graduation ceremony at Birchwood Christian School, May 12, 2017.
  • Birchwood Christian School senior Hadley Scheaffer prepares to graduate during a ceremony at the school May 12, 2017. More than 475 students are scheduled to receive diplomas from Chugiak-Eagle River’s four local high schools this spring. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • Birchwood Christian School Principal Todd Clark addresses the senior class during a graduation ceremony at the school May 12, 2017. More than 475 students are scheduled to graduate from Chugiak-Eagle River’s four local high schools this spring. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • Birchwood Christian School graduate Tyler Thornton stands in the spotlight after receiving his diploma at a graduation ceremony May 12, 2017. More than 475 students are scheduled to graduate from Chugiak-Eagle River’s four local high schools this spring. (Star photo by Kirsten Swann)
  • Star photo by Kirsten Swann From left, Birchwood Christian School seniors Tiffany Alexander, Collin Becker, Carson Carruba, Spencer Fortenberry, Hadley Sheaffer and Tyler Thornton at their school’s graduation ceremony May 12, 2017.

On the evening of his graduation, Birchwood Christian School senior Tyler Thornton arrived early, before the crowds and his classmates, ready to say goodbye to the school he’d attended since sixth grade.

“I kind of don’t want to leave, but I’m ready for new beginnings,” he said Friday night, standing in the dark auditorium at theCrossing church in Birchwood.

Balloons dotted the stage. Congratulatory messages decorated banners and projections on the walls. Six tables – one for each senior – lined the back of the room, loaded with memorabilia, cards and photos. Like many other high school graduations, the May 12 ceremony included, speeches, diplomas, a processional and prayer. Unlike many other graduations, the BCS ceremony celebrated a tight-knit class of just half a dozen students.

The six BCS graduates — Thornton, Collin Becker, Tiffany Alexander, Carson Carruba, Spencer Fortenberry and Hadley Sheaffer — shared close friendships and big plans for the future.

Thornton said he plans on joining the U.S. Army. Eventually, he hopes to pursue a career in art, perhaps working as an illustrator for Disney or Pixar, he said. His classmates planned on going off to college to study everything from zoology to music education. But first, they had a graduation to get through.

As the clock ticked toward 6:30 p.m., the auditorium began to fill with people.

“Hey guys? We’re sitting up front,” said Nicola Fortenberry, calling to family members in the crowd. “We have a son that’s graduating!”

Spencer Fortenberry, waiting in his cap and gown, said he planned to attend Pensacola Christian College to major in electrical engineering. He’s always enjoyed math and science, he said, and his father’s an engineer, too. He was ready for graduation. So was his mom.

Between her daughter’s upcoming wedding and an upcoming family move to Trinidad, Nicola Fortenberry said her son’s graduation was another item on the checklist.

“I’m not an emotional mom,” she said Friday, laughing. “We just need to get this done.”

The BCS graduation ceremony began with a procession to the stage, a prayer and a song. Valedictorian Collin Becker gave a speech recognizing his classmates by name and encouraging them to stay strong in their Christian beliefs.

“If we make Jesus and his word our foundation, we’re not going to fall,” Becker said.

The evening’s keynote speaker — coach and youth pastor Micah Ellington – echoed Becker’s message. He encouraged the graduates to be role models; show respect and love; refrain from gossip or dragging others down.

“How you live is your testimony,” Ellington said. “Remember that your actions speak louder than words.”

The diplomas were delivered with hugs and applause. As the ceremony drew to a close, BCS Principal Todd Clark reminded graduates and their families of the future ahead.

“We know that God has many more plans for them,” he said.

For most of the seniors, on the day after graduation, those plans included spending time with family and enjoying the warm spring weather. Some recent graduates looked forward to catching up on rest.

“I plan on sleeping,” Thornton said.

Birchwood Christian School Class of 2017:

Collin Becker - Valedictorian

Tiffany Alexander

Carson Carruba

Spencer Fortenberry

Hadley Sheaffer

Tyler Thornton

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