Beacon of Hope Christian School graduated eight students in a commencement ceremony Saturday, making for a total of 64 alumni in the St. Augustine school’s history.
Graduating were: Caitlyn Pettway (Summa Cum Laude), Joel Pavilando (Summa Cum Laude), Dani Bedoya, Oliver Bennett, Joshua Newton (Magna Cum Laude), Colton Pettway (Magna Cum Laude), Justin Williams and Michael Wiley.
And they did it in style.
The ceremony was a unique blend of music provided by members of the Class of 2016, some parting words of wisdom and prayers for the future.
Performing the National Anthem on electric guitar was Colton Pettway, who added a brief but explosive solo, reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s storied rendition at Woodstock, at the anthem’s conclusion.
“God has truly been good to us,” Principal Mary Whitfield told graduates and their families. “I’m not saying we’re perfect, but we’re striving.”
Pastor LaVoy Newton said this year’s graduating class included the school’s first international exchange student, Bedoya, who participated in the ceremony via video chat on a fellow student’s iPad.
Newton said Bedoya had been with the school for nearly two years but had to return home early for medical reasons.
Valedictorian Caitlyn Pettway, who made a playful note that she was the only female member of the graduating class, encouraged classmates to be satisfied with “the here and now.”
“This class was my family and I wouldn’t change them for the world,” she said of her fellow graduates.
Quoting Jeremiah 29:11, she said God has a plan for everyone and that even though the future is a mystery, that shouldn’t discourage anyone from pursuing his or her dreams.
“Do something,” Pettway told fellow graduates.
Pavilando, this year’s salutatorian, thanked his family and friends for making him the person he is today.
He told fellow graduates their diplomas were an indication of how far they’ve come but not how far they can go. He encouraged them to “talk the talk and walk the walk.”
Pavilando closed with a quote from “the great American philosopher,” Kanye West: “Keep your nose out the sky, keep your heart to God, and keep your face to the risin’ sun.”
Prior to the presentation of scholarships and diplomas, the school’s Worship Band performed songs to a clapping audience that was happy to sing along.