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Suffolk Christian graduates 12

The Suffolk Christian Academy graduates pause for a photo before their graduation ceremony Saturday at Southside Baptist Church. Pictured are Angelica Tiffany Aydlett, Kenneth Ryan Barrick, Michael Scott Cornette, Troy Richard Davis, Brianna Kim Farrenkopf, Zachary Paul Legg, Haley Danielle Mathis, McKenzie Renea Parker, Kristen Ashley Parsons, Hannah Elizabeth Pearson, Lexi Nicole Thompson and Emily Joyce VanDorn.

The Suffolk Christian Academy graduates pause for a photo before their graduation ceremony Saturday at Southside Baptist Church. Pictured are Angelica Tiffany Aydlett, Kenneth Ryan Barrick, Michael Scott Cornette, Troy Richard Davis, Brianna Kim Farrenkopf, Zachary Paul Legg, Haley Danielle Mathis, McKenzie Renea Parker, Kristen Ashley Parsons, Hannah Elizabeth Pearson, Lexi Nicole Thompson and Emily Joyce VanDorn.

The number 12 has a special significance in the Bible. Christ chose 12 disciples, and there were 12 tribes of Israel.

In fact, Suffolk Christian Academy commencement speaker Billy Chorey Sr. said during Saturday’s ceremony at Southside Baptist Church, the number 12 appears 187 times in the Bible.

“I really believe God has a special purpose for your lives,” he told the 12 graduates seated in front of him.

The dozen students are headed off to far-flung schools this fall, including George Mason University, Virginia Tech, Middle Tennessee State University, Lynchburg College, Old Dominion University and Mid-Atlantic Christian University in North Carolina.

However, they carry with them connections forged through many years of schooling at Suffolk Christian Academy. Two of the graduates — Kenneth Barrick and Lexi Thompson — attended for their entire schooling.

“I am forever grateful for each person that will walk across the stage with me today,” said salutatorian Hannah Pearson.

Valedictorian Emily VanDorn said attending the school was “a corner piece in God’s puzzle” for the 12 students.

“God has put us all here for a reason,” she said. “This has been a place where we are free to be Christians.”

Chorey encouraged the students with his own story of planning a successful career in Pennsylvania soon after college, only to come down with a severe illness. It wasn’t until then that he realized he had never sought God’s guidance.

“I turned to God, the one I’d always known about,” he said. Pointing to his head and then his heart, he continued, “I had the knowledge up here, but not in here.”

He urged the students to “measure your success from God’s perspective.”

“Most people think of success as acquiring wealth, prestige, admirers; but how does God measure success?” he said. “In the world’s eyes, guess who was not really successful 2,000 years ago? Christ.”

On the other hand, Chorey related the story of Jean Paul Getty, the founder of the Getty Oil Company, who was a billionaire but was divorced five times and died a miser.

Chorey also urged the graduates to make their choices wisely.

“Not every choice of friend or action will be what God wants you to do,” he said. “To remain truly free, you must learn to balance individual choices with Biblical truth.

The Suffolk Christian Academy class of 2016 earned more than $110,000 in scholarships, Headmaster Tamra VanDorn said.

The graduates were:

  • Angelica Tiffany Aydlett
  • Kenneth Ryan Barrick
  • Michael Scott Cornette
  • Troy Richard Davis
  • Brianna Kim Farrenkopf
  • Zachary Paul Legg
  • Haley Danielle Mathis
  • McKenzie Renea Parker
  • Kristen Ashley Parsons
  • Hannah Elizabeth Pearson
  • Lexi Nicole Thompson
  • Emily Joyce VanDorn