Birchwood Christian School graduates 16
Faith, family and some fast feet took center stage at the Birchwood Christian School high school graduation May 18 at theCrossing church in Chugiak.
The 6:30 p.m. ceremony was delayed by about 15 minutes as a couple hundred well-wishers waited for seniors Tanner Reich, Bjorn Peterson and Steven Sterling to arrive from the preliminary round of the Region II track and field meet in Talkeetna. Luckily, the boys are fast — the trio make up three-fourths of the 4X400 relay team — and managed to arrive just in time to complete a record graduating class of 16 members.
The incident was fitting for a tight-knit group of students that forged shared memories over years going to school together at the private school.
“From sports trips to class parties to just everyday interactions, being in a smaller class with these people has been very fun,” valedictorian Lydia Smith said during her remarks to the class.
“We’ve all known each other for a long time, and because of that we’ve all been able to see each other change and grow and experience life.”
In an interview before the ceremony, Smith said the close relationships she forged with her classmates will be something she’ll always remember.
“We’ve all gotten to know each other our whole lives,” said Smith, who plans to attend Mat-Su College in the fall.
In her graduation speech, Smith said it’s okay for graduates not to have their whole lives planned out just yet.
“I don’t think that any of us know exactly what we’re going to do with the rest of our lives, and why should we?” she said. “Life is this crazy roller-coaster that is filled with ups and downs and twists and turns that none of us could have ever predicted. Not knowing what the future holds and not knowing exactly what we should do with it can be a really scary thing sometimes.”
Smith told her fellow graduates she thinks that’s just fine, and that their faith in God will help guide them.
“We don’t have to know, and it’s okay if we don’t. I certainly don’t, and I know cannot be the only one. What I do know is God is going to get me through no matter what happens. And not only will he get me through, he will help me become a better person because of it.”
Religion, family and country were central themes of the graduation ceremony, which opened with a rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” and featured a duet performance of “Jesus We Love You” by graduates Tabitha Jensen and Megan Saam.
Retiring history teacher Chris Smith gave the keynote speech, touching on faith, the Bible, maps and in-depth discussion of the Lewis and Clark expedition during a half-hour speech that ended with a heartfelt thank-you to the students and a wish to see into the graduates’ futures.
“I really look forward to all the amazing things that you’ll do,” Smith told the class.
One tear-jerking highlight of the ceremony came when graduates handed yellow roses to crowd members who had helped them along the way. Another came near the end, when Army Pfc. Hunter Peterson — a 2014 BCS graduate — surprised his family by showing up at the ceremony unannounced. Even the young man’s father, Wade, didn’t know Hunter was flying in from South Korea for the event.
“It’s very emotional,” Peterson said of seeing his two boys together.
After Bjorn walked across the stage, Hunter was there waiting in his dress uniform with a hug waiting.
Still fighting tears after the ceremony, Bjorn said he was “very happy” to have his big brother in attendance for the big day.
“I can’t explain it,” he said.
Hunter Peterson said he was thrilled he was able to add to his brother’s big day — even if Bjorn was late getting to the ceremony.
“It just all came together,” he said after the conclusion of the Friday night ceremony.
On Saturday, Bjorn took first place in both the 400 and 800 meter finals.
Birchwood Christian School
Class of 2018
Valedictorian: Lydia Smith
Seth Isaac Alexander
** Jaycie Amanda Bell
Madeline Rose Carey
Isabel Kathryn Carruba
** Tabitha Ann Jensen
Joshua Robert King
* Branden Robert Nunley
Bjorn Fischer Peterson
* Tanner Michael Reich
Emily Rebecca Rogers
Megan Janae Saam
*** Lydia Lee Smith
Paige Mackenzie Smith
Stephen Michael Sterling III
*** Landen Michael Wohrle
*** Logan Thomas Wohrle
**Magna Cum Laude
*** Summa Cum Laude