"In Christ Jesus lies hidden all treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Col. 2:3
Three high school seniors celebrated the ending of a 12-year journey and the beginning of a new adventure Sunday, armed with education, hope and faith.
Justin Franchino, Chantal Reese and Vanessa Taylor received diplomas, scholarships and accolades as they graduated from Cook Inlet Academy, a private Christian school on Kalifornsky Beach Road.
"Life is going to be filled with opportunities, joys and sorrows," Kenai Police Lt. Chuck Kopp and a past CIA graduate, told the seniors. "Education, Chantal, Justin, Vanessa, will not assure that you will become a moral person. I can promise you, the God-centered world view underlying your belief system will be the driving force of your life."
Tears flowed freely as the graduates stepped to the podium to thank their teachers, parents and mentors for years of support and love.
"Thank you to everyone who has helped and encouraged me," said Reese, who plans to attend the University of Alaska Anchorage in the fall and eventually spend her life as a homemaker.
"Thanks first to my mom," said Taylor. "And to my grandma. I got to know you a lot better when your blindness came about and I moved in with you."
Taylor also will attend UAA in the fall to pursue a career as a registered nurse.
But laughter quickly overtook somberness as valedictorian Franchino took the stage.
"I've got to be honest, I love this," he said. "Not the scholarships or the decorations. That's nice, but I love to be the center of attention."
Franchino, who will head to New Tribes Bible Institute next fall to pursue a life as a foreign missionary, lightened up the afternoon sharing his fondest memories and most valuable lessons learned in high school -- everything from the knowledge that his best friends aren't necessarily the closest and that long distance relationships don't work to the wisdom that salt packets in new jackets aren't edible and one should never walk into an unmarked locker room when showers are running.
"One of the most important lessons I've learned is that I will never learn them all," he said. "But if you love God, you will succeed with flying colors."
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