Following the graduation ceremony at South Aiken Baptist Christian School on Friday, Brisa Sanchez received hug after hug from her young cousins and friends.

“This means a lot to me,” she said. “I'm so excited, and I've been waiting for this day for so long. It feels surreal. I've been here for seven years, and I've grown so much with a lot of friends.”

Eighteen seniors graduated this spring in a program that focuses on academics in a faith environment. Each season of their lives will bring new experiences and the challenges and blessings that accompany them, said salutatorian Brittany Walsh.

“We love our families and our relationships with God; these are the most important relationships we will ever have,” she said.

Sharon Seufert, the valedictorian, said she and her classmates have learned from the examples set by their teachers.

“We cannot go through the motions,” Seufert said. “It's amazing to be around people who truly love the Lord and are trying to be more like him.”

The Rev. Tad Marshall, Lakeside Baptist Church pastor, encouraged the graduates to get all the diplomas and good education that they want, but that it will not be enough, he said. “You need a real relationship with God,” Marshall said. “Your parents have invested their lives with you ... be in awe of God. It would be a tragic mistake if you walk away.”

Other participants were the South Aiken Baptist pastor, Michael Dyar, and the principal, Randy Martin. Music was furnished by Adrianne Hughes, Margaret Wead and Jennifer Wead. The song leader was Rhonda Terry.

Serving as junior marshals were Casey Narrows, Lily Martin, Kristen Ryan, Joseph Costello and Sydney Arsenault.

The church school has grown significantly since grades ninth through 12th were added five years ago. At that time, four students graduated.

“This is one of our better graduations,” Dyar said. “These are good kids, and $821,000 in scholarships was offered to them.”

Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.


Valedictorian ***

Salutatorian **

Honor Graduates *

Caleb Bishop*, Zavier Bonnett*, Reagan Burke*, Morgan Dowden*, Katie Eaves*, Marissa Gartrell*, Morgan Gochicoa*, April Kelly, Aaron Lavarnway*, Dylan Lee, Moriah Melvin*, Joshua Metzger*, Weston Ryan*, Brisa Sanchez*, Sharon Seufert***, Brittany Walsh**, Alexandra Weddle*, MaDalyn Widener