Derrick Witt knew exactly who he wanted to thank as he delivered the Valedictorian’s address at Ripon Christian High School’s graduation ceremony Friday.
His fingers because he could always count on them, his arms because they always stuck by him and his legs because they always supported him.
Yes, Witt is appropriately named.
But there was a hint of seriousness in his message to the 49 students that make up the Ripon Christian High Class of 2014.
After getting the jokes out of the way, Witt challenged his classmates to do two things when they walked away from the small, tight-knit enclave that had served as a second family to many of the students – to make sure that they stand for Christ, and not to be afraid of hard work as they embark on life’s new journey.
While it’s easy to say that you walk with the Lord, Witt said, it can be another thing entirely to say that you stand for him – something that will take dedication and a willingness not to give in to the temptations of the world that many will face for the first time when they arrive on campus at four year universities in the fall.
As for the hard work, Witt said that it will always be its own reward, especially when it’s done specifically for the glory of God and not for the monetary rewards that might come with it.
Four years ago when the students arrived on campus to start their secondary education, new teacher Heidi Hollander was arriving on campus as well and found a kinship with the young students that she felt, even though there was a noticeable gap in age, she had a lot in common with.
That first day of school she didn’t quite know what to expect, and neither did the students. That’s probably why they walked away from that first class thinking that she was mean and she thinking that they were quiet.
Four years later neither of those turned out to be true.
Hollander also had her own list of challenges for the students. First, she said that even though she wanted each of them to look back at their high school years and smile, they shouldn’t be the person who says that they wish they could do it all over again – there’s a big world out there that God designed, she implored, and they should get out there and travel it and learn about and take steps forward instead of living in the past.
Second, she reminded the students to always remember the Lord and stay close to Him. While it might sound like an easy request, it’s one that’s being made as they wrap up their schooling in a collective bubble where conservative Christian values have always been a part of the curriculum. The rest of the world, she said, isn’t like that and saying that you know the Lord and that you’re close to him are two different things.
“You are the children of the most loving and holy God,” she said. “And he goes with you every step of the way.”