A high school in Illinois made headlines earlier this month for refusing to allow its valedictorian to proclaim his faith in Christ during his graduation speech.
But that's not really news nowadays, is it? Seems that nearly every year around graduation time, another story pops up along these lines. And it shouldn't surprise us. After all, while the First Amendment affords us the freedom to practice our faith, it also protects us from a government that thrusts its religion on us. So, of course, this means that public schools have to be mighty mindful of what messages are delivered during their events.
Fortunately, at schools like Veritas Academy, students who proclaim Christ as Lord are free to do so - at graduation, on the first day of school, and from kindergarten through high school. When God's word is woven through each class curriculum, and His love lived out in each day's activities, the fruit is evident in the students who are matriculating.
Take one of our valedictorians' speeches - Laura Lielbriedis, who focused the crux of her address on applying a Christlike, unconditional love to those around us. Laura said:
"Ultimately, if you want to love others unconditionally, you have to love them as Christ loves us. [...] This means loving selflessly. What’s more important, your algebra grade or your hurting friend? The stresses of school can get in the way of cultivating friendships if you don’t work against it. Take what you know of Christ and apply it to the relationships you have with your friends. Love them despite their faults, and then love them more."
You see, when you journey through 12 years of schooling with the same dozen or two people, you grow and learn together in unique ways that challenge what you know about friendship, acceptance, and love. Laura recognized that as a benefit these graduates can take with them - the way they have worked through and walked through life so closely together, despite their differences and challenges. Anyone who has been married for any length of time can nod in agreement with Laura's assertion that "if you’re going to love unconditionally, you can’t stop loving when you start seeing habits and flaws that you don’t like."
This is just one example of how an education in a Classical Christian community like Veritas can shape the lives of our children into being more like Christ, growing in both wisdom and love.
If you'd like to see a snapshot of the fruit that springs out of graduating from Veritas Academy, here is a sampling of what a few of this year's graduates had to say about our school community in their senior bios:
Maddy Fischer (studying Classics at Samford University)
I can’t imagine a place filled with more love. I am so thankful for the many opportunities Veritas has provided me. But more than opportunities I am thankful for the people Veritas brought into my life. Veritas showed me that far more than career opportunities, fancy facilities, or extra classes it's the people you are around that shape you. I am so thankful for an exceptional group of teachers, mentors, peers, and friends. Its been a privilege growing up with you.
Nathan Forbes (studying Business Administration & History at Susquehanna University)
We have had the most intense football games one could ever expect, we’ve had a king’s share of feasting with tea parties, chocolate parties, Egyptian feasts, Greek Olympics, Madrigal feasts, and receptions for every event under the sun. Where else could one be part of varsity athletic teams, student government, drama productions, choir, and still have time to read a towering pile of books. Veritas has shaped my interests and challenged me to push past my comfort zone. My teachers have encouraged me to be a well-rounded student grounded in a strong faith. They have served as role models and have supported me through many ups and downs.
Clay Martin (taking gap year to work as a framer; planning to pursue a career in the trades and open his own business)
Throughout my time at Veritas I tried and stuck with a lot of different things: I ran Cross Country for four years, played basketball for five, acted in eight shows [...] and sung in choir for as long as I’ve been at Veritas. I’ve helped Mrs. Martin and Mr. Urban set up a seemingly endless number of chairs over the years. Through all of that, Veritas has taught me some incredible life lessons like the importance of integrity, self discipline, and a strong moral code. It taught me what service looked like, and how true leaders are servants first. While the curriculum is challenging and engaging, Veritas shines most through its people. I feel so blessed to have been a part of the community here.
Laura Lielbriedis (studying biology and Spanish at William and Mary)
Veritas has taught me how to defend what I believe and get along with people who do not share my same beliefs in a way that honors God. These skills will take me far as I move through college and beyond.
Inga Petry (studying Politics, Philosophy, and Economics at The King's College)
Going to Veritas has been one of the biggest blessings of my life. The teachers never cease to push you towards greatness through Jesus Christ. I have so many teachers to thank for pushing me and not giving up. I would like to thank Mrs. Forbes for always expecting the best from me and continuously pushing me when I did not want to push myself. Thank you Mr. Dennis for spending so much time with me discussing philosophical ideas and always pointing me towards Christ. Thank you Ms. Berkhouse for making Latin one of my favorite subjects and allowing Omnibus discussions to creep into our readings of Cupid and Psyche. Apart from the teachers, the community has also been wonderful. Even through the eight years of our ups and downs, we’ve learned and grown together. We’ve learned how to love unconditionally and work through issues - a skill that will stick with me for the rest of my life.
And finally, this statement which so succinctly sums up what we strive for each day at Veritas:
Abby Wenger (Attending Lancaster Bible College OneLife program, plans to study Elementary Education at LBC)
No matter what I do in life, I will never forget the lessons that I learned at Veritas: to serve in the world and care for others, to think deeply about things that I hear, and to love no matter if it is hard.
Loving. Serving. Thinking. And in so doing, equipping these youth for Christ's calling on their lives, in whatever shape that takes.
Congratulations to the Veritas Academy Class of 2018. It has been an honor watching you grow in so many ways, and we're excited to see what the Lord has in store for you as you go!