St. Paul Lutheran High School seniors Tia Jordan, Andrea McClanahan and Skyler Davis made history on May 16, when they became the first three graduates from the school.
With the multi-purpose room at the school overflowing, the graduates, along with the faculty and members of the board of education, entered to the traditional sound of “Pomp and Circumstance.”
Principal Andy Sherrill first addressed the crowd and thanked everyone for coming to St. Paul’s first graduation.
“Everyone in this room has played a role in making this day possible,” Sherrill said. “Whether it was a dedication to our 2015 Club, whether it was hours of painting, or whether it was prayers for our students and faculty, everyone here has played a role. We can’t thank you enough.”
Following Sherrill’s opening words, the ceremony began with the Rev. James T. King, from St. Paul Lutheran Church, delivering the invocation.
Afterwards, Sherrill introduced the three graduates by talking about their achievements that have taken place during their three years at St. Paul.
“One thing I want you to know is the high school did not exist when they were freshmen,” Sherrill said. “They had to make a choice to leave the high school they were attending to come to St. Paul. That was a difficult choice. The path for them has been unique and filled with huge decisions, difficult times, and a few curtails, but along the way these three young ladies have shown great resolve and a great deal of courage.”
Sherrill continued speaking of their accomplishments, telling the audience how the three were accepted into each college they applied, and are graduating with a combined 72 college credit hours at Mineral Area College.
The school principal spoke how the graduates have an average ACT score of 25.3 and talked about the amount of scholarships the three had been awarded.
“This number astonishes me,” Sherrill said. “Over the eight different schools that offered these ladies scholarships, if you take that over a four year period, these ladies were offered $450,000 in college scholarships. I’m just a proud principal talking about the kids he loves.”
The first graduating senior to speak was Skyler Davis who spoke about her journey to St. Paul beginning in the sixth grade when she started at St. Paul Elementary School and met Mr. Sherrill for the first time.
“During my high school career, I have had many ups and downs, some worse than others,” Davis said. “I wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the encouraging words of Mr. Sherrill … thank you so much.”
Davis went on to explain how she has become very close to her two friends graduating with her and will always love them. Before she finished, she thanked her mother for her love and guidance and the school for being there for her.
“I want to thank my mom for putting up with me for the last 18 years,” Davis said. “St. Paul will always be my family and I will always love you.”
Following Davis was Jordan, who spoke of the support the she received from everyone at the school and how her journey to graduation began at St. Paul Lutheran School kindergarten.
Jordan talked about being true to yourself, even when it was hard, but that is why she and her friends were graduating. They had remained true to their morals, values and faith.
Jordan went on to talk about how nothing was better than being a part of supportive family, there for her and others during difficult times. She spoke how chapel was one of her favorite times of the week where they could suspend reality and come together and worship as a whole school.
Finally, Jordan thanked Mike Sherrill, Principal Sherrill’s father, her basketball coach, teacher and supporter, who had passed away while she was in high school.
“I wish so much he could be here today to see my classmates and me graduate,” Jordan said. “I know he was incredibly proud of us.”
After Jordan, McClanahan took the stage and addressed the audience. She spoke about how a person’s high school years are the years that help shape who they are and how St. Paul was quite influential to her.
McClanahan talked about how the school not only helped shape them but how her classmates and she helped shape St. Paul in its beginning years. They did it through various means such as establishing its first student council and its own chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
McClanahan made reference to a verse from the Jeremiah in her closing statement that was fitting for both her and her fellow graduates as well as her school.
“God has a plan for St. Paul,” McClanahan said. “A plan for the future, a very prosperous future. The future is very long term, the future begins right now.”
The schools keynote speaker was Duane Giesselmann, who started with St. Paul Elementary School in 1977 and has been a teacher, a principal and a mentor ever since.
Giesselmann, who was the first principal of the high school, spoke of journey and a lot of prayers that led from the school conception in 2010 to the opening in 2012, to its first graduation on Saturday. According to the educator, the Lord always stepped in when needed.
Giesselmann spoke of the change using his own life as an example. He jokingly referred to television having only three channels and to the comic strip Dick Tracy. He told the three young ladies who were graduating that change would come upon them as well. But one thing would not change he told them. God would always be with them.
After a short student video that shown all three grads at various ages and during their time at St. Paul, Sherrill and Cathy Chambliss, school board president, bestowed the three young women their diplomas.
The ceremony concluded with Benediction from the Reverend Tristan Engle of the Trinity Lutheran Church.