05/29/11 — Students say goodbye to Wayne Christian Academy -- their 'second home'

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Students say goodbye to Wayne Christian Academy -- their 'second home'

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on May 29, 2011 1:50 AM

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Salutatorian Christina Foster hugs her mother, Bea, during Wayne Christian School Commencement.

For Wayne Christian School graduate Lindsey Whaley, walking out of the gym doors for the last time after Saturday's commencement ceremonies truly was the end of an era.

Every weekday morning, ever since she was eight weeks old, Lindsey was at Wayne Christian, from the infant day care room right on through graduation.

"It's bittersweet. This is like my second home," she said. "There's a lot of emotion going on. It's exciting and sad at the same time."

For father Gary Whaley, Goldsboro fire chief, it was a bittersweet moment as well. But, he said, he was proud to see his daughter walk across the stage, receive her diploma and prepare to pursue a degree in radiation therapy at East Carolina University.

"It's going to be tough. All we've known in Wayne Christian. It's been a great school -- a good Christian education," he said. "Now we're looking forward to the next chapter."

Also looking forward to see what's next is Phil James, whose daughter Rebecca may have been one of the only graduates at Wayne Christian longer than Lindsey.

"She's been here since she was six weeks old," James said. "It's scary in a way and great in a way. We're proud parents. She'll do good. They'll all do good."

But whatever success they have, salutatorian Christina Foster said in her speech, they can thank God, their parents and their teachers.

"I am proud to say we finally made it to this day -- the day we've been waiting for all our lives, or at least the last four years," she said. "It's almost time to step into the real world. We have gotten a strong and solid foundation to build upon."

And it's a foundation that proven by the record $403,000 worth of scholarship monies earned by the 29 students, administrators said.

To Christina, though, her four years of high school has been about more than just the academic and athletic success they've shared. For her, she said, it has been "the most rigid, most chaotic, most enjoyable four years of our lives."

And on Saturday, as they received their diplomas and prepared to move on to the next chapter of their lives, they reflected back on the one just ending, sharing inside jokes -- such as catcalls of "blackwater" between several of the guys and Courtney Albritton telling her classmates she wouldn't trade them for anything, expect a Bo-berry biscuit -- and well wishes with each other, their teachers and their families.

"I have seen the support that comes from this class during bad times and good times. I do not believe a class has come through or will come through Wayne Christian School that was or will be as close as our class," valedictorian Reagan Harris said. "I thank the Lord for placing each one of you in my path. As we leave this school and meet new people, I want you all to know that I will not forget you. Each of you will be in my thoughts and prayers as we head our separate ways. ...

"Each one of these graduates has big plans for the future. I have no doubt that all of you will make an impact in our community, state and nation for the Lord. I know that we will be ready to face this world because of what we have learned at Wayne Christian School."

But they also received some final words of advice from Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-WA, via a previously taped commencement speech, who urged them to "embrace the unexpected ... have faith ... (and) take ownership of your life."

And so, as Al King, Goldsboro police department captain and father of graduate Chase King, said, Saturday was not really an end, but "the starting date."

"You can't explain (what it's like to see your son graduate)," he said. "We sent him here because we believe in a Christian education. He's been here since he was four, and it's been just like a family here. I'm proud of him."

Also proud of her son Michael Wells was Jennifer Jones Wells. He is, school officials said, the first second-generation student to graduate from Wayne Christian. Mrs. Wells graduated in 1989.

"It's an honor and a privilege to have him graduate from the school I was able to attend," she said.

In fact, she explained, her memories of Wayne Christian were so strong that was no question about where Michael would be attending when they moved back to Goldsboro from West Virginia two years ago.

"You can't get a better education in Wayne County than Wayne Christian," she said.

But as they walked out of the gym doors Saturday, with new paths awaiting them, that education was coming to an end.

"This is really exciting," said Summer Brathwaite. "You don't think this will ever happen, and now it's kind of final, I guess."