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Veteran given honorary diploma

St. Paul Lutheran High School hosted graduation exercises for the Class of 2018 on Sunday.

The school’s fourth graduation was held in the Craig Thomas Gymnasium at St. Paul Lutheran Elementary School in Farmington, celebrating seven graduates, and began like any other graduation ceremony across the nation: graduates in maroon robes and academic cords leading a procession of faculty and administrators into a gymnasium filled with proud parents and student supporters.

All St. Paul Lutheran High School students are expected to graduate with an awareness for education, but also an enhanced appreciation for humanity. The students participate annually in National History Day so they can learn about their history in an individualistic and intimately rewarding manner, with guest speakers coming to the school discussing real life moments and heroes in time, in the world, that have real and lasting effects on the children.

One of those heroes, Pete Wiley, became St. Paul’s first honorary graduate on Sunday. Wiley donned a maroon cap and gown, walked the processional with the six graduates, and received a standing ovation upon the receipt of his diploma.

Wiley left school at 17 to join the military after the bombing at Pearl Harbor and dedicated his youth to defending unknown citizens against some of the greatest hate the world has ever encountered. He came home from the war and dedicated his life to serving his community in meeting needs as he learned of them.

Wiley respects education and supports it in our community, and officials at the school said it was the greatest privilege and honor to give to him a modest moiety of the gift he gave to the generations who came after him. Through this experience students learned a compassion, a respect, that will move with them throughout their lives.

The 2018 graduates included Forrest Allen, Isaac Carroll, Sarah Lacy, Caroline McClanahan, Paige McFarland, and Julie Royer. Speeches were given by Valedictorian Caroline McClanahan and Salutatorian Julie Royer.

McClanahan began her speech by thanking the close circle of her friends and family who supported her through her academic journey, recounting memories with her classmates: preschool shenanigans, classroom yoga, biology lab partner mischief, Pokemon adventures, cinnamon rolls, and more.

Her message to her fellow classmates centered around Philippians 4:8-9, a Bible passage that entreats Christians to put into practice all of the lessons that have been received, heard from, learned about God and emulated in Paul’s actions, to trust that God’s peace is with us. She challenged her classmates to “treasure the excellent and praiseworthy acts that we have gathered among our time here and to spread them throughout your daily lives.”

Royer recounted her own memories of St. Paul times before giving her own wish to her classmates. She spoke of broken-down buses, softball trips complete with smiles and laughter, and unwavering dedication to track competitions.

Royer finished the speech to her classmates with words inspired by Principal Andy Sherrill’s often-repeated words, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.” She reminded her classmates to “strive to do your best, and not to cheat yourself by slacking; it’s through hard work and perseverance that allows a person to meet their goals. We are created for a purpose. Because of God’s grace and love we are able to achieve that purpose.”

Royer quoted Jeremiah 29:11 when she discussed the plans God has for her fellow graduates, plans to “prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” She told them that this verse reminds her “that there is a reason for my perseverance, and I hope it reminds you all of that, as well.”

The commencement address was given by Sarah Folk, the Language Arts teacher. She told her students that it was a time for change in their lives, noting change can be good.

“Change the qualities about yourself that will make you a bigger, better you, but don’t change so much that nobody recognizes you,” she said. “In finding out what kind of person you one day will be, you are going to make many decisions, some really good and some really bad. You are never alone. God walks beside you to hold your hand, lift you up, stand at your back whether you are trying to follow your own path or following where He leads you. If you make God’s will your will, you will never lack for anything in life, except maybe sleep. Go out into this world and do God’s work, let them see Him through you.”

She then addressed each student individually and reflected on the qualities in their personalities through which others will see God: hardworking and dedicated, smiling and attentive, caring and giving nature, determined and willing, beauty and gentleness, and the spirit of goodwill and serve.

The unexpected theme to the 2018 class graduation was for students to take what you have learned these past years and share it with the world, noting God’s plan for our graduates is so much greater than what they can envision for them.

World War II Veteran Pete Wiley of Farmington is presented an honorary diploma by St. Paul Lutheran High School during commencement ceremonies on Sunday. 

World War II Veteran Pete Wiley of Farmington is presented an honorary diploma by St. Paul Lutheran High School during commencement ceremonies on Sunday. 

St. Paul Lutheran High School holds commencement ceremony exercises Sunday. This year's graduating class includes (from left) Isaac Carroll, Paige McFarland, Julie Royer, Sarah Lacy, Caroline McClanahan and Forrest Allen. An honorary diploma was presented to World War II Veteran Pete Wiley.

St. Paul Lutheran High School holds commencement ceremony exercises Sunday. This year’s graduating class includes (from left) Isaac Carroll, Paige McFarland, Julie Royer, Sarah Lacy, Caroline McClanahan and Forrest Allen. An honorary diploma was presented to World War II Veteran Pete Wiley.

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