ROSEBORO — While giving inspiring words to his classmates, Christopher Matthews made history by becoming the first valedictorian for Mintz Christian Academy.
“Classmates, we are about to go on with our lives, leave the so-called ‘nest’ and enter the real world,” he said. “There are three things we need to remember as we go throughout our life. First, we can’t give up on our goals or dreams. We can’t be afraid to fail … it is more important to try and fail than to fail to try. It is through strife and struggle that we grow stronger and learn from our mistakes. To be successful, we need to set goals and go after what we want to achieve. Through hard work and persistence, we can persevere through difficult situations.”
Matthews’ classmates etched their names in the school’s history book too. The members of the Class of 2016 honored during a Friday commencement included Madison Hawkins, Cody Kamp, Christopher Matthews, Dillon Pilkington, Anna Sessoms and Matthews. The students joined MCA at different periods to receive an education. Three of the students have been with academy for about half a decade. A couple of the other students have rejoined in the latter years of their high school years.
“It’s good to be able to have that close connection with our staff,” said Joy McDowell, MCA principal. “They have some pretty tight bonds it’s a small number of people.”
Matthews began his journey in the seventh grade, which was the school’s first year adding that grade level. He enjoyed attending the school for many reasons. One of them includes the friendships he made over the years.
“You’re really close because the classes are pretty small and you get real good connections,” Matthews said. “With the teachers, you have really close relationships with them. You get one-on-one time with them after school.”
He recalled a time when he was the only student in a pre-calculus class. The tight-knit school also gives students an opportunity to participate in sports. Matthews played baseball, basketball, soccer and ran cross country. He participated in the drama, yearbook, journalism and student council groups.
Now, Matthews is preparing to attend Chapman University in Orange, Calif. He plans to major in business and is looking forward to attending college in the Los Angeles metropolitan area.
“Overall, I feel that they’re doing a good job helping us prepare for college and giving us a taste of what it’s like,” Matthews said. “They send you off knowing that you’ll be able to do well in the real world.”
McDowell said it’s bittersweet saying goodbye to the first graduating class, although it’s an exciting time for the school.
“It’s also a little bit of sadness in letting go of those who you’ve invested so much time into,” McDowell said. “It’s time to let them move into the next direction.”
MCA opened its doors with 28 students during the 2009-2010 school year. At the time, kindergarten through fifth-grade students were served at the Roseboro school. More grades were added each year until 2015. Now, 115 students are enrolled. School officials said MCA provides a family atmosphere for students and teachers.
McDowell added that the mission of the school is to provide a nurturing Christian-based education built on a solid spiritual, academic and social foundation that will enable the students to be successful in their endeavors.
“Our mission is to be about a little more than just the academics,” McDowell said. “We want to do those and we want to do those well enough for them to be prepared to move into the next direction of their journey, but we want to also make sure that we equip them with the walks they have with the Lord.”
McDowell stressed how it’s important for students to have a footing in education and spirituality so they can walk “victoriously.”
“I think that we have done that and each of our students have committed to the next step,” McDowell said regarding high school and the military. “Each of them are going on to something beyond high school.”
During his speech, Matthews reminded his classmates that they are no longer high school students, but graduates who will face a difficult road.
“Our memories and times spent together have helped to define who we are, and who we will become,” Matthews said concluding his speech. “Mintz is just one stop in our life. We continue this journey down this windy and bumpy road. We have miles and miles of road in front of us, and with God we know we will head down the right path. Congratulations Mintz Class of 2016.”
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.