05/24/09 — Senior breakfast a tradition at Faith

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Senior breakfast a tradition at Faith

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on May 24, 2009 2:00 AM

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Faith Christian Academy senior Kayla Sasser, right, has breakfast with her mother, Melissa, and 5-year-old sister, Elizabeth, during the school's annual senior breakfast on Thursday.

Micah Conlon has a unique connection to this year's graduating class at Faith Christian Academy, which he shared during a senior breakfast for parents and students on Thursday.

"Y'all graduated from kindergarten in 1997, right? That was the year I graduated from here," he said. "I made a decision my senior year to pray for the students at Faith Christian every week. Little did I know that the students I was praying for would be students I would have the privilege of teaching."

Conlon is a math and science teacher at the school. Wife Jamie teaches composition and speech.

They, along with other senior teachers, were on hand to wish the graduating class well, and to receive accolades from parents of the departing students.

"It's a time for them to say a word to the faculty that's represented," said Principal Walter Sloan. "This is a unique occasion, a wonderful occasion for us to meet one more time and express our gratitude."

The annual senior breakfast, held the day before graduation, is a tradition Sloan introduced when he started at the school 17 years ago.

"It's just always been a neat little last-time get-together," he said. "We have grown mighty close to these children. Some have been here since preschool and kindergarten, some of them go to the church, Faith (Free Will Baptist)."

It's a close-knit group, Sloan said of the 24-member class.

Parent Anthony Floars was struck by the reality of the pending occasion as he watched wife Kim and daughter Kaitlyn selecting photos for the slide show that greeted parents at the breakfast.

He was not alone. Emotions ran high during the two-hour celebration, with many tears shed as memories and experiences were shared.

Phil Denlinger called it a "joyful occasion."

Wife Debbie Denlinger choked up at the mere mention of graduation. The mother of three said this is their first to graduate. Son Seth, who plans to attend Southeastern College to study pastoral theology, has been at the school since K-4.

"We are thankful he's reached this milestone, thankful for the privilege of having him at this school," Mrs. Denlinger said. "He's had struggles -- what child hasn't? We're just thankful for the environment. It's been a sacrifice but it's been worth every dime, every nickel."

It was the second time going through the ritual for Mike and Kathy Coor, whose son graduated in 2004 and daughter Devin is a senior.

"It's exciting, a little bit scary, though," said Devin, who plans to study special education at Wayne Community College.

Mrs. Coor thanked the teachers and staff "for everything you have done to mold Devin to where she is today. We appreciate your hard work so much."

Donna Scharadin is also a veteran, having gone through graduation with her daughter in 2004. Son Ryan, who has attended the school since kindergarten, will go to Wayne Community in the fall.

"It's emotional because it's my last one," she said. "We have had a child in this school since 1990. It's been a part of our lives. Things are going to change around our house now."

Dana Dale has two graduating this year, twin daughters Bethany and Brittany, both of whom plan to attend Bob Jones University in the fall. Bethany is also salutatorian for her class.

The breakfast provided a brief trip down memory lane.

"We have come a long way since second grade," said Melissa Sasser, recalling bringing daughter Kayla to the school for the first time. As Ms. Sasser left the school, she said she feared Kayla might have forgotten a pencil, so returned to the classroom. She was greeted by a daughter who "had decided she wasn't going to stay for second grade."

What's a mother to do? Principal Sloan happened by with a ready solution, she said.

"He suggested I take Kayla home, let her go back to bed and rest awhile, and try again the next day," Ms. Sasser said.

It must've paid off. On Thursday, as she stood to applaud the efforts of many, she said, "I'm proud of her and what she's accomplished. I know she's going to go on to do great things."

Lisa Mitchell remembered the day son Dustin asked her about sending him to a Christian school. He was in fifth grade.

"I'm so thankful for y'all welcoming him and making us part of the family," she said. "All of you teachers have just played a big important role in his life and his decision to go into the ministry. I just thank you for everything."

The celebration was not without its lighter moments. Floars, who graduated from the school, and wife Kim, who previously taught there for several years, have three other children coming up the ranks.

"I do thank the Lord for it and for all the teachers and coaches, what they meant to us," he began. "Maybe with all the ease that (Kaitlyn's) been, y'all will have a little extra grace with (rising senior) Drew next year."

Ruth Smith, whose husband Eddie is a teacher at the school and daughter Rebecca is in the graduating class, was also exuberant in her praises.

"I thank the Lord for this school. It has been our life, it really has," she said. "I know these teachers -- my husband's one of them -- for what they do, for their examples, thank you. We love all of you like family. ... My husband always says, 'It's not a sacrifice that we make to teach at Faith, it's an investment.'"

Graduation does not have to signal the end, though, Mrs. Smith said.

"I think you're going to be friends for life," she told the students. "Even if you go your separate ways, you'll always keep up with each other."