At the 14th annual “Honor the Graduates” ceremony, fourteen graduating seniors from seven high schools in St. Johns County, FL received highest honors from the local Christian Educators Association. The highlight of the program was hearing testimonials from the students about their Christian walk through high school. Being a Christian educator in the public schools has its own challenges, but can you imagine what it must be like to live out your faith as a student today? The selection process was actually made by the students themselves. The St. Johns CEAI network contacted the high school sponsors of FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes) or other student-led Christian club and the sponsor presents the selection process over to the students. Each year one or two (an occasionally three) students who exemplify their walk with Christ are chosen from among their peers at each high school. Can you imagine what an honor and encouragement that must be that students your own age see Christ in you? Each student has an opportunity to speak about his or her walk, his/her plans for the future and give a testimonial to how God has graced their lives. It was very evident that some of them have already had great loss in their lives and have overcome only through the mercy, grace and peace of a loving God. Each understood that although high school was just one small part of their lives, they committed before parents, teachers and the community to live a life under God. All but one were going on to colleges that included Moody Bible Institute, Liberty University, the University of West Florida, UCF, FAU, Florida Christian College, UNF, Auburn and more. One female graduate, who had been through 4 years of the IB program, was becoming a Marine! Each graduate received a certificate, medallion and $100 cash.
The master of ceremonies, Lou Greco, described Christian Educators main role in St. Johns County was to pray for the students, teachers, administrators and school community. “We pray, that’s what we do,” described Greco. The event has been the culminating activity of the local CEAI network after meeting two other times during the school year – once for a prayer breakfast at the beginning of the school year, and at a January luncheon. The teachers donated small amounts of their own money at the first two events to fund “Honor the Graduates.” This award of integrity has become one of the highest honors at graduation throughout the county. In attendance were previous award winners, the superintendent of schools, board members, teachers, school staff and family. After all the student spoke, they were bathed in prayer by the attendees who gathered around them with a benediction from Rev. Wesley Slough, pastor of the Switzerland Community Church who hosted the event.
What does this have to do with the 16-9 Movement? Knowing the first 16 words of the First Amendment is vital. (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…) “Congress” – the public school – was not involved in the creation or selection of the recipients of the award nor was it held on school grounds. Christian Educators, a professional association for public, charter and private school educators organized and supported the event. As for the “9” Fruit of the Spirit, (Galatians 5:22-23 - But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law,) it was apparent to all that these students exemplified a way of life that encouraged us all to “Just Be!”
For more information and support to begin an “Honor the Graduates” program in your district, please contact Karen C. Seddon at firstname.lastname@example.org. As Lou Greco stated, “We pray, that’s what we do!”
Note: To more fully understand the 16-9 Movement, please read the first blog entry by clicking here.