Williamsburg Christian Academy’s 2017 commencement Saturday was a personalized affair with gifts, hugs and laughter aplenty.
Shortly after 10 a.m., the 13 graduates slowly made their way up a long red carpet between two sections of chairs filled with family and friends. They paused to hug parents, grandparents and younger siblings as Pomp and Circumstance echoed around the decorated cafeteria.
The seniors sat dutifully quiet as fellow students Salutatorian Lindsey Flanagan and Valedictorian Emily Jutras shared memories, life advice and prayers.
“We will be known for our spirit, our joy, our humor,” Jutras said.
Commencement speaker Dan Stec, a teacher at the academy, followed her remarks. He told students to “throw kindness like punches” and have a positive effect as they move through the world.
But it was Head of School Dave Breslin who stole the show.
He was tasked with the charge to graduates, which he explained was advice to the students in the context of a story. Breslin turned the podium and microphone to face the graduates rather than the crowd.
This was Breslin's first year leading Williamsburg Christian. He was sad his time with the graduates was over, but said they’d affected him profoundly in the short time they'd had.
So he thanked each one personally, with a gift and a hug, on stage.
Each came with a story about the student, or anecdote of a time they shared together.
An Almond Joy candy bar for Mackenzie Adkins, who was always radiating happiness around him, and a bag of Reece’s chocolates for Alexis Heath.
Breslin gave Nicole Dunn a frozen pizza, saying he’d owed her one for months. A Twix candy bar went to Aaron Copland.
“Because there are two bars, always side-by-side, and I’m honored to always be by your side,” Breslin said as the crowd cheered.
He handed Danny Kean and Chris Thomas Little Hugs — children’s fruit juices packed into small plastic barrels — because they always gave him “big man hugs.”
The students were left with a prayer for each of them as they continue on to college next year. Some will stay in the Commonwealth, studying at the College of William and Mary, James Madison University, Longwood University and Virginia Tech.
Williams can be reached by phone at 757-345-2341.
Graduating class: 13
Senior speakers: Emily Jutras, valedictorian; Lindsey Flanagan, salutatorian.
National Honor Society members: Mackenzie Adkins, Luke Anderson, Nicole Dunn, Lindsey Flanagan, Emily Jutras, Danny Kean, Ethan Moore, Abbey Terracina.