DOVER, NH, JUNE 16, 2021 — Portsmouth Christian Academy’s Class of 2021 commencement ceremony celebrated a year of great resilience and a milestone of achievements on Friday evening, June 11, 2021.
Photo courtesy of Anders LundAfter continuing school in person during the COVID-19 pandemic, the graduating class’ completion of their high school diplomas was no small feat, but a milestone to celebrate. Even in the face of challenges, Friday’s live, in-person commencement instead focused on the hope and vision that the Class of 2021 had on impacting the world for good as they each move into the next chapters of their lives.
Class of 2021 Valedictorian Lily Kjendal articulated this in her address to the class, saying, “Class of 2021, I know that you are prepared to succeed in whatever your next steps might be. You are a class of future leaders, teachers, scientists, nurses, and artists. But more than that. You are a group of extremely passionate, kind and caring people. So as we go out in life and chase our dreams, I challenge you to continue being passionate, continue being kind, and to always be a light.”
The Class of 2021 and their families attended graduation in person, which was held as an outdoor, evening event on PCA’s 50-acre campus, accompanied by the school’s symphony. A live stream was made available to extended family and friends who were unable to attend in person.
Head of School Mike Runey welcomed graduates, family and friends, noting that “There is no doubt that the Lord has equipped these soon-to-be graduates with abilities and character traits that will impact our world for good. Class of 2021, we the staff and faculty stand today as witnesses of your abilities, your character, and your potential.”
The program recognized outstanding members of the graduating class, including:
- Lindsey Hatfield, who received the Golden Eagle Award, presented annually to a member of the senior class based on academic, spiritual, and school citizenship criteria. College Planning Director, Scott Sawyer, presented the award to Hatfield, who in an address to her class encouraged her peers to remember that “the ’what if’s in life become insignificant when our focus is on God and others…We can be Christ-centered graduates who impact our world for good.”
- Hans Xu, who earned the distinction of salutatorian. Xu discussed the reality of life’s crossroads, reminding his class that the uncertainty of COVID had resulted in lessons of growth and adaptability for them; lessons to take into the rest of life’s unexpected turns.
- Lily Kjendal, who was named valedictorian. Kjendal challenged her classmates to consider what preparation for life looked like in their lives, and furthermore how they each might be a light as they go out from PCA.
Also recognized were the 14 students who graduated with high honors all four years of high school, including:
- Lily Kjendal
- Sam Healey
- Bethany Koshy
- Liza Corso
- Bella Ouellette
- Madison Trainor
- Jocelyn Hewitt
- Trevor Garton
- Lindsey Hatfield
- Hanzhi Xu
- George Cheney
- Isabella Minai
- James Lotter
- Bill Luo
You can read their full profiles here.
Commencement speaker Col. Mark Read, Head of Geography and Environmental Engineering at the United States Military Academy at West Point, challenged and encouraged the graduates in his keynote address by advising the graduates to consider the important question of purpose. He pointed out that every headstone includes a birth date, a death date and a dash in between. These relate to the questions “where do I come from”, “where do I go when I die”, and for the often-overlooked dash, the question of “what is my purpose?” Read emphasized this importance as he invited the graduating class to consider the question, “What is my dash?”. You can view his speech here.
Upper School Principal Jordan Heckelmann says of the Class of 2020, “They are a notable group of students not just for the excellence they have displayed spiritually, academically, athletically, and artistically, but for the joy they bring anywhere they go and the heart they have for one another. It is without a doubt that the Class of 2021 will positively impact our world for good and reflect the light of Christ in their lives.”
This year also marked another special milestone for PCA: the graduation of its 1,000th graduate, Riley Chase. PCA alumni and current PCA parents Nathan and Kassy Flagg represented the school’s alumni council in presenting this honor. “Riley, you and your classmates are a very special class in many ways,” Flagg said. “We know that you will use all that you have learned at PCA as you follow God’s plan for you in your life. On behalf of the alumni, we are so proud of the Class of 2021.” The Flaggs welcomed the graduating class to the PCA’s alumni family.
The ceremony concluded as the graduates presented their loved ones with a rose, thanking them for the support that enabled them to reach this milestone. Class President Sam Healy presented the school community with a gift from the class of 2021: new mats for the school’s main gymnasium. Graduating members of PCA’s Upper School Voices sang “May the Road Rise to Meet You” before a prayer of benediction was given, sending the graduates forth to impact the world for good.
International students and their families also participated in a special graduation ceremony on Thursday in the early morning to allow loved ones overseas and in different time zones to attend.
You may view all speeches and highlights from the Class of 2021 graduation ceremony on our Youtube page.
Portsmouth Christian Academy has been inspiring students on the seacoast to maximize their potential for forty years. PCA provides a nurturing educational environment that emphasizes Christ-centered community, outstanding academics, differentiated learning, and exceptional character. Located just minutes northwest of Portsmouth, NH on a beautiful 50-acre riverfront campus, PCA is a dually accredited, independent, college-preparatory, day school where young people from Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire in preschool through Grade 12 are challenged to thrive academically and grow as servant-leaders prepared to impact the world for good. For more information, visit pcaschool.org.