MATTHEWS – Principal Sheila Nelson assured Carmel Christian School's 78 graduates May 28 that they will one day tell their grandchildren about their senior year of high school during the COVID-19 pandemic. And while they attended classes on the private school's campus most of the time, they sometimes had to log in remotely due to the quarantine.

“I would encourage you to build on the resilience you have developed and to understand that you have an amazing ability to persevere – to hold on, to remain hopeful,” Nelson told them. “Remember that your strength has come from the Lord.”

The school's eighth commencement ceremony was a stark contrast from last year's drive-thru format. All but one student got to walk across the stage to receive their diplomas in front of family and friends.

That one student was Ruilin Zhu, who had attended Carmel Christian since 11th grade but he was unable to return from China due to COVID-19. Zhu attended all his classes virtually and fulfilled all of his graduation requires despite a 12-hour time different, Nelson said.

Several other students were singled out for awards. They were as follows:

• Ty Morgan received the Bobby Jones Athlete of the Year. He was a star on the boys soccer team.

• Caitlin O'Hagan won the Excellence in Arts Award.

• Andrew Riebe won the Head of School Cup, given to a senior who demonstrates the characteristics of a disciple-maker.

Fifteen students earned the Alpha and Omega Award, given to seniors who have attended Carmel Christian since kindergarten. They were Olivia Bartholomew, Mason Bender, Griggs Blankenburg, Lauren Cyr, Callie Darden, Luke Foster, Daniel Jones, Elizabeth Jordan, Phelps Keefer, Pamela Letcher, Caitlin O'Hagan, Olivia Pierson, Jordan Rebsamen, Hailey Sims and Aaron Townsend.

Witt Miles was salutatorian with a grade point average. Ty Morgan was named valedictorian with a 5.083 GPA.

Morgan said there was a greater need for people with depth and substance as opposed to intelligence.

“Don't follow a paycheck. Follow a passion. Don't follow a career. Follow a calling,” Morgan said. “And finally set your eyes on the Lord because in this world that is covered with the darkness of sin, He will be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path.”

The Class of 2021 will present the school with a digital trophy case that will show game highlights and sports schedules.

Senior Class President Andrew Riebe said some of the student body's fondest memories came from sporting events.

“I don't think any of us truly understood how much school spirit meant to us until attending games were suddenly ripped away from us this past year,” Riebe said. “For those of us who played on teams, I can say that we missed having our friends and fans at the events.”

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