Vail Christian High School Class of 2018 looks to 2068
EDWARDS — No, they would not hold their applause.
Yes, everyone was meant to hold their applause until all 36 Vail Christian High School seniors received their diplomas, but that wasn’t happening.
Each of the new graduates was greeted with a short burst of applause as they came down onto the stage of the Grace Auditorium to receive his or her diplomas in Edwards on Saturday, May 26, and, once everyone had walked, family and friends of the Vail Christian Class of 2018 loudly cheered and celebrated.
With Vail Christian celebrating its 20th year, the school’s 19th commencement service included bookend bagpipes, song, bible verses and humor.
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Recalling a recent prank in which the Class of 2018 filled Steve O’Neil’s car plastic-foam peanuts, the head of school said, “Whenever, I drive, I can’t seem to forget you. Random peanuts keep showing up. Don’t think I won’t get back at you. I know some good pranks.”
On a more serious note: “You will always be Saints,” he said, referring to the school’s moniker for its sports teams. “We will always be with you, and like your parents, we expect to see you home again.”
In 2068 …
One of the school’s founders, Pastor Dan Rohlwing delivered the commencement address, recalling the nascent days of the school, which, among other choices could have been named Eagle Valley Christian High School or Edwards Christian High School.
“It was decided that we would open a Christian high school,” Rohlwing said. “We’re not in agreement about who said it would be a high school. My wife claims the honor, and I give it to her. … So how do you open a high school? I guess I could have Googled it. The problem was back then was that there was no Google.”
Vail Christian started during the 1998-99 school year with just freshmen, sophomores and juniors, and the school’s first commencement was in the spring of 2000 with six graduates. By 2001, that number had swelled to seven.
“Mr. Head of School, that’s a 17 percent increase,” Rohlwing joked while looking at O’Neil.
Noting that this year is the 50th anniversary of his high school graduation, Rohlwing asked the Class of 2018 what its future holds.
“Tomorrow, you begin your new life,” he said. “Tomorrow you begin the rest of your life. What is that life going to be? What is it going to look like in 2068?”
To that end, Rohlwing incorporated the graduating class’ selected Bible verse, Deuteronomy 3:18, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged.”
Rohlwing described the verse as words of action, and urged the Class of 2018 — in the course of time — to “look back and say what a story God has given me.”
Salutatorian, Hallie Bradford, and valedictorian, Joseph Emmer, both touched on the process of the Class of ’18 developing from individuals into a collective whole.
“Freshman year, our class dance was a train wreck,” Bradford said. “We can all laugh about it now.”
“We have truly become a cohesive unit,” Emmer said. “I am extremely glad that we are not the same people we were four years ago.”
With the awarding of the diplomas complete, the Vail Christian Class of 2018 tossed its mortarboards with enthusiasm. Once the sustained applause died down, the lights in the auditorium dimmed for a slide show, eliciting laughter and some sniffles, with baby pictures to “grown-up” portraits of each of the graduates.
As with the processional, the recessional began with Steve Emmerson leading on the bagpipe.
“When I hear the bagpipe, I love it. Maybe it’s the Irish blood in me,” O’Neil said, then turning his attention to the graduates. “This is your day to celebrate all that you have accomplished.”
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It’s fitting that Eagle County is proceeding through its reopening phases of COVID-19 in an analogy to ski run difficulties — green to blue to black. Monday marks the transition from the green beginner phase to the blue intermediate phase.