Whitefield Academy Blog
The following is the Valedictory Address from the 2021 Whitefield Academy Commencement Ceremony given by Valedictorian Emerson Claire Jones.
Hello, I’d like to join with Ruby Jane in welcoming you to graduation. As some of you may know, I have attended Whitefield Academy since kindergarten, and it has been my privilege to be a member of this class through the development of the past thirteen years. This time has given me a unique perspective on our class. As I walk into Whitefield every morning, I say goodbye to my sisters as we rush to morning Bible reading. Once I enter my first hour class, I feel the sensation of comfort rush over me as I know that I am surrounded by those who know and care for me. As I take my seat, I hear a sarcastic remark from Eli, the strum of the guitar from Brendan, and the roar of laughter from Eby and Kyla. I chat with those around me about my morning and the upcoming test or dance until we are called together to begin studying. This year, you would find us with Dr. Mac, reading the Gospel of John or Bonaventure, discussing the revolutionary ideas that these authors bring up, and allowing them to deepen our faith. In these few moments that I have described to you, I was enjoying the final product of what it took years to create. My class has persevered through so much, whether we were comforting each other through loss or laughing with one another over a joke. The end result that you see here today is what it took years to come to. Instead of seeing little kindergarteners coloring when you walk into our classroom, you now see young adults having conversations and sharing life with each other. “How did this happen?” you ask. There are many things that I attribute this change to and I believe the primary causes are the classical curriculum taught here, the teachers that have invested in us, and the time we have spent with one another. In addition to the passage of time, and the toil of our parents, Whitefield Academy has been the key formative force in our lives, and it has shaped us in many ways.
The following is the Salutatory Address from the 2021 Whitefield Academy Commencement given by Salutatorian Ruby Jane Bartmess.
Good evening parents, faculty, friends, and fellow graduates. Tonight is a night of celebration. A celebration of not only an academic achievement, but also of the completion of a journey. From kindergarten until now, we have grown, changed, and friends have come and gone as we learned to love each other as Christ first loved us. It is clear that we would not be here tonight if it weren’t for great mentors and companions who have helped us on our journey. Thirteen years ago at about this time, we were all finishing the first year of our academic journey, some of us at Whitefield, others at various schools across the country. And now, all together, after many years of hard work and dedication, laughter and learning, we are here tonight to graduate. To graduate is not only to be a recipient of a diploma, but it symbolizes a turning of pages from one chapter of life to the next. We have the privilege of walking across this stage because of the help and support from all of you here tonight and from many of you who are watching at home.
Last year, my wife and I started a rowing team at Whitefield. One of the neat things about coaching rowing at a classical school is that I can point to a rowing race in one of the most important texts of classical literature: the Aeneid. In one of the oldest references to athletic competition, the funeral games of Anchises include rowing, boxing, archery, and horsemanship. Aeneas held these games to honor his father who had died in the Trojan War. Unlike Aeneas, I do not schedule our regattas using the obituary section of the newspaper, but I think there’s something to learn about the fact that when the Greeks wanted to honor their fallen heroes, they immediately turned to fiercely competing with one another in contests of strength and skill.
At Whitefield Academy, our cultural trips are a hugely important part of our education. The United States is home to some of the world’s greatest cities, filled with museums, theatre, music, and architecture. These experiences are very shaping for our students, opening their eyes to new places and giving them a chance to exercise a little bit of freedom.
It’s Trips Week! To the layman, that means that all of our students from 7th grade to 12th grade leave school for a week on either a mission trip or a cultural trip. Traditionally, our 7th, 9th, and 11th graders serve at Show-Me Christian Youth Home, Sagrada Scholarship Bible Camp, and Bermuda, and our 8th, 10th, and 12th graders visit Chicago, New York, and a place of the seniors’ choice.
We live in a culture of self. Scroll through social media and you’ll quickly see memes encouraging you to “Never let the light dim from within!” or “Always wear an invisible crown!” The message of our culture is that we should be self-reliant and find self-defined happiness through self-expression and self-made success. As in 2 Timothy 3:2, we have become lovers of ourselves.
Raise your hands – how many of you can relate to this:
Sometime, long ago, you sat in a classroom, head in hand. The lesson is boring you. You’re confused. You’re frustrated. You raise your hand, not to seek clarification, but to express defiance:
“Mrs. So-and-So, why do we have to learn this?”
In our increasingly irreligious society, many holidays have developed two tracks. When selecting Christmas cards last year, my wife remarked that the website had a choice between “Christmas” and “Religious Christmas,” as if these were two different holidays celebrated on the same day. Christians have also seen this dual attitude applied to Easter. It may seem at first glance that many of our Easter traditions are completely secularized, following after the “non-religious” version of the holiday, but actually many “secular” traditions have Christian origins. By learning about these origins, Christians can reclaim traditions whose meanings have been de-sacralized.
No matter your denomination or how you take communion, as Christians we can all agree that deciding to take communion is a big deal. It’s been the most recent for us in the series of “Big Decisions You Have to Make as a Parent.”
In the past few decades, we’ve seen a revolution in the way most students are educated in this and many other countries. Countless hardware and software products have been produced with the promise that they will help schools better achieve their mission of educating students. Often these methods and applications carry the label “STEM” for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Those anxious that the humanities are being left behind have coined “STEAM,” where arts are shoehorned into the mix.