Mercedes Fox tries to remove a small dab of lipstick from her graduation stole as she and fellow Gateway Christian School graduates prepare for commencement ceremonies, Saturday afternoon. Mark Wilson Photo
Gateway Christian School graduates stepped on the path toward higher education on Saturday, celebrating past accomplishments and welcoming new opportunities as the Class of 2012. Each of the 14 graduates shared personal memories, thoughts and wishes in a recording as they approached the stage at Gateway Christian Church, thanking family, friends and school staff for helping to prepare them for new ventures.
GCS Principal Justin Stephens announced that the graduates combined to receive about $270,000 in scholarships to further their educations, a figure that averages to about $19,000 per person.
“Know that you can grab hold of those things that you have been taught not only at this school, but also by your parents, and that God has a path for you, and that path always leads to good places and leads to rest,” said Rick Rapp, superintendent. “Thank you for doing a great job in building an example for the rest of the students.”
Gateway Church International associate pastor Gary Pack was the featured speaker at the ceremony, telling the graduates that commencement means much more than their successful completion of high school.
“I was looking up some synonyms for commencement, and it says it’s the alpha, birth, celebration, countdown, curtain-raiser, dawn, genesis, initiation, onset, opening — it is the starting point, the tee-off, and the kick-off,” Pack said. “And that’s where you are at. … This doesn’t mark the end, this marks the beginning.
“Everything you have done in your life up to this point has just been preparation for what you are about to do. And that’s an exciting thought.”
Addressing the graduates, Pack said every individual is fashioned by God as a container unlike any other in the world, stressing that a person is defined by his or her internal qualities.
“More than you being a son or a daughter of your parents, more than you being a brother and sister to your siblings, more than you being a senior today, and a graduate, you are a container,” Pack said. “That’s who you are. And when we understand that’s who we are, then we understand what our purpose is.
“The world would like you to emphasize the container. They would like for you to dress up the container, they would like you to pick out a container to put the container in. Maybe a four-bedroom with a swimming pool out back. The world would like you to define your life as what you put your container in or what you put on your container. …
“It’s not about where you go, or so much who you know. It’s about what’s inside of you that brings value to your life. It’s about what’s inside the container that gives it its value. …
“The world tries to sell you the short end of the deal. They say, ‘Well, as long as you’re happy.’ You know what? That’s a lie. If you search for happiness, then it’s going to be determined on what’s going on around you. ‘If you have this, you’re happy.’ ‘If you don’t have it, you’re not.’ ‘If you’re with this kind of guy or girl, then you’re happy.’ ‘If you have this amount of money you’ll be happy.’ … Happiness is determined on what’s happening. But joy revolves around knowing Jesus.”