Half the members of the Mekeel Christian Academy Class of 2013 received a brick as they walked up to the alter of First Presbyterian Church in Schenectady, dressed in their white and blue caps and gowns.
The brick, given to seniors who had attended Mekeel since kindergarten, represented the foundation the school laid for them and the future they can build upon that foundation.
The 16 students who received bricks were among 32 seniors who graduated Saturday.
“Our goal is to completely equip students to go out into the world,” said Chad Bowman, the school’s headmaster, “equipped to be successful and equipped from a Biblical perspective. And that is kind of the foundation of everything we seek to accomplish at Mekeel.”
The independent Christian school in Scotia was founded in 1979 by the First Presbyterian Church to provide an education that incorporates academic rigor with Christian morals and teachings, according to the school website.
Family, friends and faculty filled the church for the hour-and-a half ceremony. The seniors received academic, service and fellowship awards, recognizing their achievements throughout the years. Speeches were given by the class valedictorian Natalie Nold and salutatorian Lexie Holmes. The commencement speech was given by David Dussault, a Union College graduate, entrepreneur and business leader.
The ceremony opened with a prayer from the Rev. Lawrence C. Roff, senior pastor of First Presbyterian Church. He blessed the students and encouraged them to continue following the path the Lord set for for them. Each student and faculty member acknowledged their faith and thanked God in their speeches.
“We look at God’s word,” Bowman said, “and incorporate God’s viewpoint into all different areas of education.”
Holmes, who will attend Gordon College, thanked her classmates, the school and Jesus Christ during her speech. “I will continue praying for you all,” she added at the end.
Holmes described the class of 2013 as unique, different from past graduating classes at Mekeel.
“Loud, silly, funny, real,” she said of her classmates. “One of the most challenging classes to walk the halls of Mekeel.”
But despite their free-spirited nature, the class flourished. Freddy Luna, 17, who will attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, is a perfect example.
“I have been here for 13 years,” he said. “I know wherever I go, I am always going to have this to look back on. Mekeel really shaped my morals.”
Both Holmes and Luna described the Class of 2013 as one big group of friends.
“A lot of us have known each other for over a decade,” Luna said. “We are very close-knit. I would say we are a family.”
Holmes added, “We are a very fun bunch. I think we are really unique. We have each other’s backs.”
The faculty and staff also recognized how close this year’s graduating class was.
“A class that really got along well, that worked together well. A group of kids that pulled for each other,” Bowman said. “There are going to be a lot of friendships that last for many years into the future.”
Holmes said she will most miss the family environment Mekeel created. And she will especially miss her teachers.
“They are like second parents,” she said. “I think all the teachers truly care about us.”
“They do more than just teach curriculum,” he said. “They teach you the Bible, and they teach you just how to live. They become role models.”
The ceremony concluded with the seniors huddled together outside the church, cheering as they threw their caps into the air,
“It is a class that I am excited to see the future for,” Bowman said. “This is a group that is going to accomplish big things.”