Portsmouth Christian Academy Celebrates the Class of 2023

Dover, NH – June 9, 2023 – Thirty-five graduates crossed the stage in Portsmouth Christian Academy’s (PCA) gymnasium on Friday evening as part of the school’s Commencement Ceremony, a momentous event celebrating the accomplishments and bright futures of the Class of 2023.

Head of School, Mike Runey, opened the ceremony with heartfelt remarks, stating that the Class of 2023 would be remembered for two remarkable qualities: their unwavering commitment to humble excellence across academic pursuits, athletic endeavors, and the fine arts; and their ongoing dedication to becoming servant leaders within the school community.

“Of the 35 young men and women seated before you tonight,” said Runey to the friends and family gathered, “15 have achieved High or Highest Honors every quarter in the last 4 years.”

Runey went on, “Among all the hundred-plus high schools in our state, they would stand with their peers in the top 5 high schools in the state. So, to achieve High or Highest Honors in this school is a remarkable accomplishment.”

Class Valedictorian, Yuyang (Amber) Sun, gives the Valedictory Address on Friday evening.
Malcolm Beal accepts the Golden Eagle Award in recognition of outstanding academic performance, community service, and extracurricular involvement.

Highlighting the exceptional achievements of the graduating class, PCA recognized Malcolm Beal as the recipient of the school’s highest honor, The Golden Eagle Award. This prestigious accolade acknowledges outstanding academic performance, profound community service, and proactive involvement in various school-related activities, including athletics and the fine arts.

“In sum, the recipient of The Golden Eagle Award is an exemplary individual who embodies the values and aspirations of PCA.” said Upper School Principal, Jordan Heckelmann.

“Throughout his time at PCA, Malcolm has become an integral part of our community. Spiritually, he has shown a strong, Christian witness by serving in a Christ-like manner, praying for and over others, and by continually seeking to know God through personal study and engagement in his classes.” said Heckelmann.

Following Beal’s recognition, Scott Sawyer, College Planning Director, introduced the school’s valedictorian, Yuyang (Amber) Sun, of Zhejiang, China.

“Amber is the daughter of Xiaoyan Weng and Minfeng Sun. Amber will be attending the University of Florida in the fall and will be studying Engineering. Amber was also accepted by a number of other outstanding colleges and universities including Northeaster University, Penn State and the University of Illinois. While attending PCA, Amber has maintained Highest Honors status while competing on the Math Team and taking a variety of Advanced Placement and Dual Enrollment classes. Amber has truly been a model of academic excellence while at PCA, and we are confident she will continue to learn and thrive through her college years.”

In her Valedictory Address, Amber shared the daunting reality of attending school thousands of miles away from her home. “For years I had dreamed of studying abroad, however, as a 16-year-old who had never been separated from her parents for more than a couple of weeks, the idea of flying halfway across the globe, taking classes in a foreign language, and managing daily life seemed incredibly daunting.”

Sun humorously talked bout learning how to respond to the phrase, “What’s up?” something that was never taught in her English textbooks back in China.

“Whenever someone greeted me with, ‘What’s up?’, I would awkwardly smile or pause, attempting to come up with a detailed account of my day. This was just one example of the many culture shocks I would experience in my time in the U.S.”

“I find myself in a similar situation as when I began thinking about studying abroad. We are all about to embark on an incredible new journey. Many of us are venturing to different parts of the country. But our challenge extends far beyond reaching a new state. We’ve left behind the familiar school system we grew up with and are entering a new environment where we must learn to live independently, without the constant guidance of our parents.”

Sun closed, “Let’s embrace the adventure that awaits us and make the most of the incredible opportunities that lie ahead.”

Class Advisors, Jessica Graustein and Gene Watson, took the stage to express their deep appreciation for the remarkable impact the Class of 2023 had on their lives. Their passion, resilience, and transformative spirit left an indelible mark on the advisors, serving as a testament to the potential for positive change that lies within each graduate.

The Commencement Speaker, Rev. Dr. Danny Yamashiro, gave a captivating address to the Class of 2023, and all the family, faculty, and staff gathered. Dr. Yamashiro, who holds a Master’s Degree in Government from Harvard University, a PhD from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School of Trinity International University, a Master’s in Bible Exposition from Talbot School of Theology, and a Bachelor’s in Biblical Studies and Theology from Biola University, shared his personal story of surviving a life-altering fall from the renowned Pali ridge in Hawaii. This harrowing experience served as a catalyst for his spiritual awakening.

Addressing the Class of 2023, Dr. Yamashiro remarked, “Class of 2023, you are God’s light-bearers sent into the world to shine. Your light emanates through who you are and what you do.” He then provided three essential signposts to guide the graduates through life’s challenges: honing their God-given abilities, nurturing their inner spiritual lives, and always returning to God.

As he closed out his remarks, Rev. Dr. Yamashiro urged the graduates to embrace their school’s mascot and soar like eagles, symbolizing the limitless possibilities that lie ahead if they continue to trust in God.

The highlight of the event was the proud moment when 35 graduates walked across the stage, one by one, to receive their well-earned diplomas. Each graduate’s unique journey and accomplishments were recognized, marking the beginning of their exciting new chapters as they embark on college, careers, and lives of purpose.

Rev. Dr. Yamashiro delivers the Commencement Address to the Class of 2023.
PCA Senior, Fenway Smith, poses with her diploma on-stage.

Following the distribution of diplomas, PCA recognized the retirement of long-time science teacher, Beverly Shevenell. Shevenell first came to PCA as a middle school teacher in 1994, and has since taught generations of students at Portsmouth Christian Academy.

Stephen Foley, longtime PCA faculty-member and Dean of Men, took to the stage to introduce his longtime friend and colleague.

“As Bev Shevenell completes her 29th and final year as an Upper School science teacher, it would be appropriate to highlight parts of her accomplished resume. It would also be appropriate to focus on the impact she has had on 1000-plus students that she has had in her classroom—two of whom are my own children. But, when I was asked to prepare these remarks, my mind immediately went to who Bev is as a friend and a colleague.”

Foley went on, “When I began working with Bev in 1996, a lot of things were different about PCA compared to now. I remember her preparing minks for dissection on a folding-table in the office that served as our location for lunch. Bev, I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I paid close attention to you in those early years. In large part, you were my introduction to what Christian education should be. Your understanding about how science and faith in Christ are not only compatible, but essential to each other, shaped how I thought about my own discipline.”

Stephen Foley and Beverly Shevenell share a hug as Shevenell is recognized for her 29 years of service.
Rev. Dr. Yamashiro poses for a photo with Chairman of the Board, Dan Tyman (far left), Dean of Academics, Connie Lawrence (left), Head of School, Mike Runey (right), and Upper School Principal, Jordan Heckelmann (far right).

Fighting back tears and a shaky voice, Foley closed later with, “You are the high-water mark for what it means to be a Christian educator. Congratulations, and I hope you visit us at lunch with your lawn chair on sunny days.

After a few warm hugs from administrators on stage, Shevenell said the benediction before the graduates recessed:

“May our Great Lord enable you to live your life in a Christ-centered way, following after him. Be curious as you seek and live out God’s will for you in His world. Think, speak, and act with Biblical Integrity in our confused society. Build compassionate community wherever you go. Pursue excellence in all you do. Show humility even in your moments of success and triumph. And lastly, be filled with God’s joy amid all of life’s seasons. Amen.”

Portsmouth Christian Academy extends its warmest congratulations to the Class of 2023 and wishes them continued success and fulfillment in all their future endeavors.