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On Saturday May 10, more than 40 students received their bachelor's and master's degrees in the thirty-eighth commencement exercises of Trinity Baptist College. The warm breezes of spring brought the usual, heady excitement that accompanies the end of another school year. Graduation, the capstone event of the year, followed a week of events and activities designed to close out the year with excellence and the joy of a job well done.
Monday opened what is possibly the least favorite yet most vital part of graduation week’s agenda—final exams. Students studied hard to get that last big grade and finish well the courses they’ve worked so hard to complete. From Monday morning to Thursday afternoon, students took tests, wrote essays, and submitted final projects that represented several months of training and hope for the future.
Wednesday morning’s chapel service was dedicated to the graduating seniors, with several giving testimonies. While presenting her testimony, Chanelle King thanked the faculty, coaches, and teammates who stood with her while facing her mother’s recent death, saying she had “no regrets because God is bringing me closer to Him.” Members of the student leadership team were also recognized for their service. Students who were to receive honors at graduation were announced, and students who completed their student teaching internships received their certificates.
Wednesday night was college night at Trinity Baptist Church during which students who won the various fine arts competitions held at the end of the year performed their pieces. Sophomore Katie Gilmore sang Schumann’s In Der Fremde, which earned her first place in the classical voice competition, while sophomore Ashton Barnes’s rendition of “There Is a Fountain” won the sacred voice competition. In the drama categories, sophomore Katie Crockett delivered a moving performance of Robert Frost’s poem “The Death of the Hired Man.” Rebecca Spaulding, a graduating senior, and Joe Gaines, a sophomore, presented a scene from Shakespeare’s Richard III, their winning entry in the duet acting category.
Lifesong also made an appearance at the service, singing and leading worship between the different performances. The finale of the evening was the sermon delivered by junior Seth Gray, outstanding student preacher. Speaking from Joshua 7 and the tragic story of Achan, Seth encouraged the congregation to “hold nothing back in surrender to God.”
When asked afterward about the sermon, senior Patrick Adams said, “The application was compelling, and I enjoyed the stories he told and how relatable they were to my life.”
Thursday night saw Lifesong take the stage again, this time in their own concert to celebrate the release of their latest album, When I Think About the Lord. Singing several numbers ranging from favorites such as “Our God Is a Mountain Mover” and “Healing Is in Your Hands” to a fun, a capella rendition of “Somewhere over the Rainbow,” the Lifesong team thrilled the audience. The evening marked the final performance for Lifesong’s graduating seniors Rebecca Spaulding and Emily Brindley, along with the introduction of Lifesong’s newest members Ashton Barnes and Amanda Odom.
With exams finished, TBC students looked to Friday of graduation week as a day of celebration. The last chapel service of the year saw evangelist Tim Lee, a member of TBC’s Board of Trustees, deliver the message. After chapel, students and faculty had a picnic on the grounds of the college near the student center, followed by a faculty vs. student softball game under the hot sun.
Later that night, the traditional baccalaureate service was held in honor of TBC’s graduating students. The college’s valedictorian, Truman Blankenship, along with salutatorian Jason Cabrales delivered their testimonies, followed by Pastor Archie Norman of Henry Baptist Church in McDonough, Georgia, who delivered a moving sermon about the grace of Christ being everything we need.
Finally, Saturday morning brought the event everybody had been waiting for since the beginning of the school year—graduation. Dr. Chris Gnanakan of Outreach to Asian Nations delivered the commencement address, challenging the graduates to believe that God is good enough, strong enough, and wise enough to be what we need. Both Dr. Gnanakan and Pastor Norman received honorary doctorates during the ceremony.
Over 40 students received their degrees, with several receiving high honors for academic achievement. Mrs. Rachel Hozey, an English professor at TBC, was awarded the Teacher of the Year honor, and Dr. Ed Gibson was given special honor for his service as acting Dean of Men over the past three years, receiving a plaque and the title “Student Advocate.”
As the graduation concluded, students filed out of the auditorium and into the warm Florida spring air, filled with both joy for the conclusion of another school year, and hope—graduates looking forward to their new lives beyond their college years, and returning students looking forward to their own graduation down the road.
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