Class of 2023
Congratulations to the class of 2023! Read about some of their favorite memories at Rockbridge and some of the words of advice they have for the students they leave behind. May the Lord bless their future steps as they move on from our halls but not from our hearts.
Just for fun, they were requested to answer the following question: Who would you have dinner with if you could dine with any person, living or dead? Why?
My favorite memory from Rockbridge was the first in-person concert we had after Covid shut down everything. It’s a joy and a blessing to be able to make beautiful music with friends you’ve known for years. Covid especially made me realize how much I cherish those memories. I love concerts because it is where the beautiful gift of music can be shared with the Rockbridge community.
As a word of advice to those I leave behind, I would say, now is the time to make mistakes and grow from them. Don’t let failure discourage you, instead, let it propel you to work even harder. It’s always better to work hard now than to not work hard enough and have regrets later. Plus, it’s what we’re called to do: “work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men. Knowing that from the Lord, you will receive the inheritance as your reward.” (Colossians 3:23-24)
For my thesis, I will be defending the following: Cosmetic limb lengthening surgery is unethical.
Please pray for guidance and peace from God as I transition to college and whatever else God has planned for me.
For fun: If I could have dinner with someone, I would enjoy dining with Vivaldi, the composer. I love and respect Vivaldi not just for his music, but for the life he led. I particularly want to ask him what motivated him to pursue composition and teach violin at an orphanage while also pursuing priesthood.
A blessing from Mrs. Thelma James: Luke, all glory to God for your success through the years. And a big congratulations to you! I remember a fifth grader not too long ago who set Bible verses to music. Your commitment to learning God’s word and to doing good work was a great blessing to me. God has given you all that pertains to life and godliness. He has nurtured and faithfully prepared you for this moment when you will step into a much bigger world than you have ever known. As you experience new things and encounter new ideas, may His word be your microscope. May He instruct you in the way you should go and comfort you with the knowledge of His presence at every turn. Luke, you are ready. Stand firm in the faith. There are many cheering you on!
One of my favorite memories of my time at Rockbridge happened on Grand Tour. It was the third night of the trip, our final night in Athens. Our hotel was in an awesome location in the tourist section of Athens, near to many of the coolest parts of the city. That night after dinner, several of us decided to climb the Areopagus before playing our nightly round of soccer. It was already well past sunset, so the sky was pitch black and the city was covered in lights. Sitting there on the Areopagus, I had my favorite view of the whole trip. Even the Parthenon was lit up in such a way as to make it stand out. I think part of the reason that this is my favorite memory from Grand Tour is because in this moment I realized two things: first, that I loved randomly being able to climb the Areopagus whenever my friends and I felt like it, and second, that I needed to get as much out of Grand Tour as possible because I will never have the same experience again.
As a word of advice to students I am leaving, I would say get involved in as much as you can as early as you can. Don't waste your time watching TV when you could be in a sport or a club. Don't let those little moments or opportunities go to waste because you can't get them back. You won't regret the time you spent doing your activities, but you will regret the activities you didn't do. However, don't over-commit if you're the kind of person who needs a less hectic schedule.
For my thesis, I will be defending the following: Public elementary education should be individualized within the classroom.
For fun: If I had a chance to have dinner with someone, it would definitely be George Washington. I want to have a career in the military, and George Washington is the kind of leader I aspire to be. He beat the odds in the revolutionary war, cobbled together different military tactics into an extremely clever strategy, and was the best president our nation has ever had. What really shines through in all of his leadership was his Christian character. No one could meet him without being deeply affected by it, especially his humility. He even turned down the people when they offered to make him king. I'd like to ask his advice on becoming a better leader.
A blessing from Mr. JD Head: Life is not often what we expect or plan … or even what we get done between periods of class. “The best laid plans of mice and men go oft awry”; but God’s never do. That moment you wish you could get back will come and it will go, but your Savior will be by your side, shaping you and guiding you, always. Be firm and focused—not on your plans alone, but His… and delight in what He does, in the left hand turn that you thought would be a right, in the two week journey that turns into a year, on the hard road that turns hard when you thought it would be easier. Never lose that firm focus on the One Whose loving eye has never turned from you.
I don’t know if I have one favorite memory exactly from my time at Rockbridge, but Mr. Northup’s 7th and 8th grade Bible classes were sometimes the only thing keeping me going back then. Those were very hard years for me, and Mr. Northup’s interesting stories about how cool and strange his past life was, were always a good distraction to say the least. He’d tell us how he’d been held at gun point, how he could do handstands on skateboards, and worked on a ton of cars. I don’t have that many specific memories, but I do remember loving his class and always having the desire to learn what he taught.
As a word of advice to those I leave behind: Find the subjects that you enjoy, enjoy them, and then also put in a little more effort to the subjects you dislike. It will balance your grade out and who knows, if you actually pay attention, you might find you actually enjoy the subject after all.
For my thesis, I will be defending the following: The early restrictions put on conventional cars are also restricting the growth of electric cars.
Please pray for me and the whole thesis process. It took me a long time to sort through my thesis argument and actually make a useable structural map.
For fun: If I could have dinner with someone, I'd enjoy time with either Danny Devito, because he’s just a cool guy, or Mark Hamill because we have both had to deal with “Luke, I am your father” our entire lives.
A blessing from Mrs. Amy Boswell: Luke, you have impacted me greatly in the short time we have spent together in class. A day that stands out in my mind is when we discussed the differences between creatives and analytics and it dawned on you that God had imparted in you the traits of a creative. It was literally a lightbulb moment, and it was clear that you saw your life path differently after that realization. This willingness to accept your creative endowment, and to forge ahead in light of this new understanding of yourself is courageous—defined as strength in the face of pain or grief. May you navigate your life’s path with a desire to lean into your faith and to tap into that vein of courage to find your purpose and your vocation. As Winston Churchill aptly stated, “Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities…because it is the quality which guarantees all others.”
One of my favorite memories of my time from Rockbridge Academy is from the ferry on Grand Tour going from Greece to Rome. A few students plus some parents got together to do a little worship and devotional service. It was honestly my favorite part of the whole trip, being with everyone, being vulnerable about our faith, and sharing our joy with each other. When we sang hymns, I remember that a few strangers came and sang with us, and something about that was really touching. I will never forget that Sunday morning!
As a word of advice to those I leave behind: It might seem like you have years and years ahead of you, that school is going to drag on and on, but trust me, it’s going to be over before you know it. Make the most of your time here, your education is one of the most important things in your life that shapes who you are, and without the incredible influence of my parents and teachers, and most importantly, God, I would not be the person I am today. Have fun, work hard, and remember that even if this year is tough, you’ll look back on it fondly soon enough!
For my senior thesis, I will be defending the following: Why the study of Shakespeare should be preserved in school curriculums.
Prayer request: I am currently in the process of auditions and figuring out my path to a professional ballet company! Please pray that God will show me the doors that he wants opened and help me through this process step by step.
For fun: If I could have dinner with someone, I'd love to share a meal with Charlotte Brontë…I just want to geek out about Jane Eyre to her!!
A blessing from Miss Monica Godfrey: Clara, it has been a joy to get to know you, your love of beauty, literature, art, and truth, your passion for learning and excellence. You have so many gifts and a great capacity for leadership and friendship. I’m glad you got to pursue dance this year (though you have been greatly missed around the halls of Rockbridge!) I pray that the Lord will guide your steps and give you discernment. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus; He is the ultimate goal that we strain toward—that we may be more like Him each day. “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.” (Num 6:24-26)
One of my favorite memories from Rockbridge Academy happened at Delphi on Grand Tour. It was late at night after we had all split up to do devotionals together. A few of my classmates found each other outside and had great conversations. The night sky was beautiful and shooting stars littered the darkness. I made connections with my friends that night that I will remember forever.
As a word of advice to those I leave behind, I would encourage all to be confident in what they think but at the same time be thoughtful about what they say.
For my senior thesis, I will be defending the following: The government should not collect tax revenue from legalized vices resulting in negative internalities.
Please pray that I would find a Christian community and friends in college
For fun: If I could have dinner with someone, I'd like to share a meal with Brandon Sanderson. He is my favorite author and I would love to talk to him about the books he has written.
A blessing from Mr. JD Head: May the Lord bless you with the ability to do what you are called to, even when you do not see the reason; may you do what you are called to for love of the One Who has called you, and never for fear of man. May your resilience allow you space to find the beauty in the moments of yielding and in the moments of standing—often the same thing—and in the singular act of creation as you follow the Creator. May your creations—all your work—draw that beauty out for others to see, and in seeing it, may they be drawn to the Savior. And may your greatest art be the life the Lord draws for you.
Hannah Vander Wall
Throughout my twelve years at Rockbridge, I've made so many extraordinary memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life. Though all of them have impacted me in some way, I fiercely cherish two in particular. The first memory is of the time I received an award in sixth grade for perfectly memorizing and reciting the book of Colossians. It was incredible to see months of my hard work come to fruition, and I never could have accomplished it without the tutelage of Ms. Cawley, the help of my faithful parents, and the encouragement of my classmates. The second memory is of a special time in Grand Tour this past summer. After a journey through the cold tunnels of the Italian Catacombs, my class gathered in one of the chambers and sang the Doxology together. I've never felt such awe in my life. Having our feet collectively planted in places where different generations of Christians once stood pointed back to God's everlasting faithfulness. For thousands of years, humans emerge, change, and fade, but the Lord remains the same. That truth has become more and more evident in many areas of my life due to that moment in the Catacombs.
As a word of advice to those I leave behind: Live; don't simply exist. Life can be busy, especially at school, and it's easy to get caught up in stress as grades are released and homework is assigned. However, it's important to be present in Christ; live in the moment without anxiously getting caught up in the future. Our next breaths are never guaranteed, so savoring each one is essential. Take the time to smell the flowers; have a conversation with that quiet classmate; do your homework thoroughly and joyfully. Our lives are precious gifts from God.
For my senior thesis, I will be defending the following: In America, the rise of teen vape use could cause the greatest health crisis for their generation.
Please pray that my transition into college will go smoothly.
For fun: If I could have dinner with someone, I would choose to have dinner with my grandma on my dad's side, who passed away before I was born. She left a tangible mark on the different generations of Vander Walls that I continue to see more than twenty years after her death. I would love to hear her stories, laugh with her, and experience her gentle charisma for myself.
A blessing from Mrs. Mandy Ball: Hannah Vander Wall, a young woman of godly character, grace in conflict, tenacious faith, unrelenting courage, and abundant kindness, my prayer for you is that the Lord would continue to develop your ability to see. More specifically, to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. (Ps. 27:13) May you always see abundant reasons for songs of praises, His goodness in your suffering, His handwriting on your life, glimpses of His beauty, and His storehouse of strength. When your vision is dim and you cannot see, may He give you the strength to trust, hope, and pray, to cry out to Him who sees what we cannot, and remember that He has loved you with an everlasting love. May you always feel Him holding you in the palm of His hand.