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Class of 2024

Congratulations to the class of 2024! Read about some of their favorite memories at Rockbridge and words of advice they have for their fellow 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 optional question: If you could live as a book character, who would you choose and why? 

Bonnie Davenport

There are so many amazing memories from my time at Rockbridge. I think one of my all-time favorite memories is from February 11, 2021, the middle of my ninth grade year, the last year at The Big House. There was a pretty significant snow, not enough to get off school, but enough for a nice snowball fight. During lunch, recess, and after school, there was a huge snowball fight. Teachers and students alike all picked up a snowball or two or three...and indulged in a fun back and forth. I remember by the end we were all soaking wet, but all had a jolly good time. Afterward, I remember going with my back to our classroom and just goofing off and trying our best to warm up after we had chucked multiple snowballs at one another. There were lots of laughs and joy spread around...what's the harm in a little snowball fight?   

As for a word of advice to those I leave:  Do not take the time you have or the people around you for granted. There will be times when you will be ready to graduate (during senior year and before), but do not let that disrupt your time at school. Be happy where you are and try to be thankful that you get to be here. There are a lot of fun, enjoyable things still in store. You may want to be elsewhere, but to recall something Mr. Lawing told me, "You are at Rockbridge because that is where God has you right now." So whether or not you are ready to leave, this is where you are called to be. We are called to "be where our feet are," part of that is fulfilling our work to the best of our ability and giving the rest to God. All we can do is do our best, and let Jesus take care of the rest. Lastly, God has given you the faculty, your friends, and classmates. They love you and want the best for you. By senior year, your classmates will feel like your siblings, so love them as such. Show them Christ's love and be genuine.

For my thesis I researched the following: Healthy parenting styles are essential in raising well-developed children with healthy attachment styles. There are three parenting styles and three correlating attachment styles. In my thesis, I explain the two unhealthy parenting and attachment styles that create dysfunctional children and conclude with a solution that parents should consider.

Please pray that I would trust God with the big decisions coming up in life: college, career, and just the future in general.     

If I were to be any character in any book, I would want to be Jo March from Little Women. This is for a few reasons. First, Jo is such an independent and personality-filled character. She holds so much love, loyalty, and respect for her sisters and others around her. She loves to write her plays and act them out in the comfort of her own home with her sisters, and Laurie eventually. She is fiercely protective and loyal to her sisters. This is shown when Amy gets struck at school for having the limes, and when Beth is on her deathbed. Jo is so fiery and full of spirit, she is unapologetically herself and cares so deeply for the needs of those around her. I wish to be more like her. 

A blessing from Dr. Seufert: It is incredible to me that you are graduating already. Still able to envision you as a social, kind-hearted middle schooler and in homeroom as a precocious junior higher, it hardly seems possible that you should be leaving for college later this year. The halls and classrooms will most definitely miss your presence. I could pay you a lot of compliments, but one quality stands out. God has blessed you with a kind heart. Even if you might be tempted to think sometimes that God doesn’t care what you do, your consistent kindnesses and care for others is what colors you. You have greatly enriched this place. “The woman to be admired and praised is the woman who lives in the fear of God. Adorn her life with praises.” May God's blessing continue to be on you wherever you are. 

Jenna Miller

My favorite memory from my time at Rockbridge is from Grand Tour. I was in the city of Rome at dinner during our free time with a group of friends, and it started raining. This light shower quickly turned into pouring rain that wouldn’t stop. So my fellow classmates and I ran through the rain, jumping and trudging through humongous, murky, and questionable-looking puddles. We got completely soaked. Even though our party got “rained out,” we took our party out into the rain. It was so fun to get lost and to laugh endlessly with my friends all the way back to the hotel. The whole experience was like that of a cheesy movie.

As a word of advice to those I leave behind, remember that sometimes the most reasonable thing to say is not always the most helpful thing to say. Often, when someone shares their frustrating personal situation with us, our automatic response is to provide solutions to their problem or to shower them with bible verses or shut them down with a “Well, God is good.” And these things are not untrue, but are they helpful in that moment? When people come to us with suffering, anxiety, and despair we ought to respond with compassion and empathy like, “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” “I’m so sorry you had to deal with all of that,” “That’s hard.” We should always be quick to listen with compassion and slow to speak. This is something I have so often failed to do. 

My senior thesis is about the legitimacy of contemporary worship music in a Sunday morning worship service.

As for a book character, you know the caterpillar from the children’s book, A very Hungry Caterpillar? I would want to be him because all he does is eat any food he wants all day, and then he looks stunning (because he turns into a butterfly).

A blessing from Mrs. Ward: Jenna, your sweet spirit and beautiful voice have blessed our community so much in the two short years you’ve been here. I’m still impressed by your musical rendition of “The Weary Blues,” and especially by the courage it took to perform for classmates and staff members! May the Lord continue to provide you with the courage to use your gifts boldly for His glory. As you step out into this next phase of your life, there will be much to delight in; enjoy it as a gift from above! And when challenges come, may you remember that we are designed to be dependent on the Lord—His power is made perfect in our weakness, and He is faithful to respond when we call on Him. May the Lord bless you with songs of praise to His name!

Ebun Shadare

A blessing from Mr. Vaughn: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” (Philippians 3:7-8) From your kindness and delightful sense of humor, to your eloquence as a debater and skills as an athlete, I have enjoyed seeing over the years the many ways the Lord has gifted you. But even as you use these gifts, remind yourself often that these are nothing compared to the surpassing worth of knowing the Lord Jesus Christ. As you begin your college studies, prioritize your relationship with Christ. Find a healthy church and connect with new Christian friends who will challenge you to pursue a life of godliness. And may God lead you to lay all your gifts and talents at the feet of our Lord and Savior, to be used for his kingdom.

Noah Reardon

My favorite memory from my time at Rockbridge was winning the 2022 Captain's Cup with my homeroom's rendition of the exclusive show from the Hanes sisters from White Christmas.

As a word of advice, make sure to eat a good, hearty breakfast as consistently as possible. Otherwise, you may lack the necessary energy and struggle to remain awake during class.

My senior thesis considers whether Noah's flood from the book of Genesis covered the entire earth or just a local area.

If I had to live as a book character, I would live as Fatty Bolger from The Lord of the Rings. I chose him because without his heroic efforts, the servants of the Dark Lord would have overtaken Frodo and captured the One Ring, thus bringing an end to all that is good in Middle Earth. 

A blessing from Mr. Keehner:  Noah, you are leaving behind a powerful legacy that demonstrates how athletic ability, academic excellence, and moral certitude all cohere in Christ, the Alpha and Omega. All things begin with Him and find their true meaning in Him. As you transition from Rockbridge to Grove City, may these words originally given to Joshua remind you of that and encourage you to continue the beautiful path you are on: “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.”

Ellie Crutchley

My favorite memory from Rockbridge took place on Grand Tour. On our final night in Florence, Emma Northup, Michael Grube, Lilia Bailey, and I impulsively decided to attend the semifinals of the historic Florentine soccer game, "Calcio Storico Fiorentino." Many euros later, we were packed like sardines in the bleachers, rain pouring, soaking us to the bone. Our nice clothes and leather market purses were drenched, but we couldn't have cared less. Unbeknownst to us, the game was a combination of soccer, wrestling, and rugby, like something out of Wrestlemania. Everyone was cheering, screaming, and singing. With every goal, cannons blasted blue dye into the air—a souvenir I still sport on my white pants. I love this memory because we were flying by the seat of our pants. We weren't worried about the next thing; we were enjoying each other's company and making great memories that I'm sure we will remember for the rest of our lives.

If I could share a word of wisdom with the students and friends I leave behind at Rockbridge, it would be to recognize that grades aren't the sole measure of success. While diligence is important, we shouldn't allow grades to consume us. Avoid falling into the trap of unhealthy comparison and competition.

For my senior thesis, I am arguing that everyone is obligated to follow the 4th commandment. 

I ask for your prayers as I transition into life after high school. Please pray that God would give me wisdom as I make significant college decisions. Also, please pray that God would grant me peace and comfort. I'm feeling bittersweet as I prepare to conclude high school, knowing that many changes lie ahead.

If I could choose to live as a book character, I would choose someone out of Swiss Family Robinson. It would be pretty cool to live on a deserted island, build a home, and explore the jungle. It's about creativity and survival skills. It's like Robinson Crusoe, but better—I wouldn't be isolated.

A blessing from Mr. Keehner:  Ellie, it has been a real pleasure to get to know you over these past three years. From the very beginning, it was obvious that you were a young woman who took her faith seriously. As you have grown, that faith has matured into a deeply rooted confidence in your Lord, and you are blessing others, especially the girls following behind you through the Women’s Prayer Group. Continue to pursue Christ with all that is in you. You will find so many good things at Grove City that will vie for your attention. Pursue them, but in proper relation to your ultimate pursuit of Christ. “Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered” (1 Ch 16:11-12), and “those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you” (Psa 9:10).

Cecilia Keehner

It's almost impossible for me to pick one memory that sticks out since I've been going to Rockbridge since kindergarten. If I had to choose, though, I would say playing card games with my classmates on Grand Tour. We did this at night before curfew in most of the cities, but my favorite time was on the ferry from Greece to Italy. We were all waiting to leave the ship, and it was super cramped in the lobby. A couple of my classmates and I played slapjack around a little table while we were waiting. Even though it was boiling hot in the room, we were all tired, and we just wanted to leave the ferry, it was still extremely enjoyable. It showed me the importance of good community and optimism, because if we had not "forced the fun," the waiting experience would have been miserable. The times that I played cards with my classmates were the most memorable parts of the trip for me because of how much closer we all became through those simple times of fellowship. While the sights, cities, and temples were all amazing to see, the most important and memorable thing was growing closer to all of my classmates.

As a word of advice: The thing that has helped me the most during my time at school is being positive. While it's a little cliché, there's so much truth and benefit to it. When I was younger, I would constantly complain about having to go to school, having to do homework, and having too much work. Don't get me wrong, it's not easy to stop complaining about things, but once you make a habit of being positive instead of complaining or looking for everything that can go wrong, life becomes more manageable. This has allowed me to really “be where my feet are,” as Mrs. Ball says. Not only has it helped me find the positives within any situation, but it's also allowed me to have peace in God's plan for my life. So, when something seems like it's going wrong, or when things get difficult, look for the positives. Search for all the good things God could be doing in your life through the negative circumstances. I pray that anyone reading this can find comfort in God's plan and his everlasting love for them.

My senior thesis is on how Christians have allowed the cultural view of love to affect how they approach relationships. 

Please pray that God will direct my steps as I move onto the next chapter of my life, and that I would make wise decisions that ultimately draw me closer to Him.

A blessing from Mr. Keehner: We have spent our entire time together at Rockbridge! My first year as a teacher was your kindergarten year. Watching you grow from the little girl with the goofy sunglasses to who you are now has been one of the greatest joys of my life. I will miss all those car rides when we talked about what you were discussing in class, whether complicated theological questions or challenging philosophical problems. You are a deep and creative thinker, but humble about your own knowledge. You are a fierce competitor on the lacrosse field, but always encouraging to the players around you. You are a talented artist, but you always tell about the beautiful work your friends are doing. Most importantly, you have a deep and abiding faith and want others to know Christ. May you continue to grow in all these ways in college. I’m so glad you’ll be close to home. “May the Lord bless you and protect you; may He cause His face to shine upon you and show you favor; may He lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.”

Bailey Lamar

If I had to choose one, my favorite Rockbridge memory was a day in Florence on Grand Tour. I remember looking in awe at Brunelleschi's dome and walking the beautiful streets of Florence in the morning. In the afternoon, I ate an incredible Italian pizza with the boys, and we walked around Florence just having a great time. Later, we got gelato and played soccer in the middle of Florence living our best life. I am thankful for the chance to spend a couple of weeks with my friends before we all go off to college. I'll never forget all the great times we had on that trip.

As a word of advice to those I leave: Go all in on your faith. Christianity is not about a lukewarm, obligatory relationship with God, but about delighting in Him. If you believe that He is the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace, why only commit halfway?

My senior thesis is on why the United States should not expand the border wall.

If I could have lived as a book character, I would definitely have chosen some random wizard from Harry Potter. I would want to have the same family and friends I have now and be able to do some magic, like automating boring tasks and blowing up some stuff using incantations. I could take fireworks at family get-togethers to a whole new level. Besides that, drinking some butter beer sounds awesome. I could also get rich by creating Marauder's maps of security buildings and selling it to the government. All in all, being a wizard would be awesome.

A blessing from Mr. Keehner: Bailey, I have greatly enjoyed our many talks outside of class, ranging from baseball to history to theology to parsing Hebrew verbs. Through it all, I have seen you grow consistently in your desire to share the truth of God’s word with those around you. Without pushing your views on people, you simply pivot to Scripture. This is a significant part of who you are, and I have great confidence that it will continue to be so as you begin your studies at College Park. May these words from 2 Tim 3 encourage you as you begin the next part of your journey: “As for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

Oluwadurotimi Akinyelu

Of all the memories from my time at Rockbridge, it's hard to pick a favorite, but today, I'm going to have to go with one from 9th grade when my homeroom threw a surprise birthday party for Dr. Seufert. It was one of those last-minute coordination things that my class has been pulling off for years. We bought pizza, cake, and chocolate milk for the party. Though he wasn't actually surprised, he played along with us, and we enjoyed the afternoon.

As a word of advice to those I leave at Rockbridge: Do the things that are most important to you no matter what other people say or think about it. Don't shy away from something because of how others might react.     

For my senior thesis, I have been researching the topic of true greatness. The term "greatness" is used a lot in our culture, but what does it really mean?    

Please pray that I continue to trust God in everything I do.

As for a book character, it would be kind of fun to be Digory from The Magician's Nephew. He was able to witness the creation of Narnia, and he got to go on a crazy journey (without dying). He got to jump between worlds, and he knew the secrets of reality. To me, that sounds pretty cool.

A blessing from Dr. Seufert: It would be very easy to fill this paragraph with a list of your God-given abilities and amiable qualities. But I won’t do that. “Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” “I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you.” Your faith at work in offered and answered prayer struck me when you gave your testimony earlier this year. There was an unmistakable display of strength as you related to everyone your reliance on the Lord through difficulty. It seems life’s challenges compel one of three choices: give up, be self-sufficiently strong, or be strong in the Lord. I have seen you strong in the Lord and pray that your days will continue to be filled with the power of prayerful, biblical abiding in Him.

Annika Skwarek

My favorite memory from Rockbridge was from Rome on the last day of Grand Tour. We got to see St. Peter's Basilica as well as the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Stairs. It was probably my favorite memory because it rained the whole afternoon, and we were delusional and tired. We were all ready to leave three days ago, but we were still stuck in Rome. I had a delicious dinner where a certain classmate choked up their risotto over another friend. We ran all the way back to our hotel singing Disney songs. We stayed up as late as we possibly could playing cards and hanging out on the rooftop restaurant. I loved hanging out with my classmates on Grand Tour, and the memories I made there I will cherish forever. 

A word of wisdom I would give to Rockbridge students is to sleep more and stress less. This is obviously way easier said than done. I myself am writing this quite late into the night. I encourage you to take naps! Go to bed at 9:30 PM. It really does help to be awake in school. The worst feeling is knowing that you are so busy keeping your eyes open in class that everything being taught is going way over your head. Stressing less means take breaks. Don't think about school over the weekends unless you really have to. Approach deadlines wisely, not procrastinating until the last night. At a certain point, it's better to stop studying and to just get some sleep. Staying up late studying isn't helpful if you are so tired you can't remember what you studied. Just go to sleep and study in the morning! Don't stress—one bad grade won't ruin the grade book.

My senior thesis topic is on: How Christians should properly discern God's will while making important decisions. I am arguing that Christians should discern God's will by looking to scripture, prayer, and biblical counsel or guidance when making these tough decisions.

Prayer requests: At the college I am planning to attend next year, I already have a group of close Christian friends. While I am excited to go to college with some of my closest friends, I do want to make sure that I am seeking out new relationships as well. I would appreciate prayer that I seek out people who I do not know. It will be very easy to stick by the people I already know and love, yet I know that the Lord has placed so many other wonderful people at this school that I need to reach out to and befriend.

As for a book character, I think it would be fun to be George Weasley. He is my favorite twin in the Harry Potter series. He and Fred are quite the comedic presence throughout the books. He brings laughter to friends and family throughout all situations. Even when his ear is accidentally blown off, he is able to ease the scary situation into something more comfortable through humor. He is carefree and hardworking when he needs to be.     

A blessing from Dr. Seufert: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear evil, for You are with me.” It seems good to use this blessing to remind you of something that is true now and will be true throughout your life. In a sense, you’re about to leave one place for somewhere else. In another sense, nothing is changing. Next year will come, and the year after. You’ll go to college, graduate, Lord willing, get married, have kids, raise a family, and grow old. You may move across the country or even the world. Still, you will be right where you are, keeping the same company. Eternity stabilizes you, and I have been blessed to witness it. The LORD is your Shepherd. Through this world’s darkness and distresses, He keeps you. You are forever blessed.

Andrew Ball

Most of my favorite memories from Rockbridge are from being in the community at school. Whether it was sports, recess, or fight club, I've always managed to find good times of fellowship. Of course, being a simple-minded man, the first instance I thought of was a particularly furious Spikeball match at an FCA event. I played with Gabriel Crane, Ezra Kennedy, and Noah Reardon in what seemed a battle of the ages. The ball flew through the air at increasing velocities, teamwork and fortitude being the only things stopping it from sailing miles away. The thing I remember most was not the points we won, but the laughter we shared around a simple game [and the IHop afterwards]. Thank you to all my friends and classmates who have made this time one of joy and fellowship.

As a word of advice to those I leave, watch your speech. One thing that Christ tells us that absolutely terrifies me is that "on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak." Now, I also believe that Christ will also cover over these words, but I know that I have personally spoken many careless words in my time. I think that especially in high school, we can forget how important our speech is, and I see it every day. In my experience, a joke always has two ends, one with power and the other with a degree of pain. My advice would be to watch when you are laughing that your laughter does not cost the other person too much. Proverbs 15:4, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.”

My senior thesis topic is on: Evaluating Marxism in light of economics. 

If I could be a book character, I would be Samwise Gamgee. He's faithful, determined, and has great hair. Also, there's something charming about the Shire that makes you feel like you could just live there content forever. Lastly, Samwise is pretty strong (he probably went to the gym) because he carried Frodo up a mountain without having food or water for several days.

A blessing from Mrs. Ball:  Andrew, bringer of joy, lover of souls, storyteller, math manipulator, and fierce competitor, it has been an honor to walk with you for so many years as your teacher, principal, coach, and most importantly, mother, and to watch you follow hard after the Lord in everything you do. It is a gift to offer a blessing upon one for whom I have prayed so earnestly for so long: May you always tell the story of the One who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (Ex 34:6), be an example to believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity, listening to the way of wisdom (1 Tim 4:12-13), and may your heart always burn within you as you listen to the teaching of Jesus (Lk 24:13). Soli Deo gloria.

Annalise Bachmann

My favorite memory from Rockbridge is definitely senior year Captain's Cup. We took a while to get an idea, but two days before, we rallied on “Christmas in the Thinking Chair.” Our class is full of "lifers," and it was fun to remember so much of our Rockbridge education up to this year and turn it into something really fun. We even got to recycle some of our kindergarten ornaments to decorate the tree! The video is something we will all cherish. 

As a word of advice: Escape the mindset of the "easy A". This is a concept that can trap us not just trap us in academics, but also our relationships and walk with God. We have really busy lives, and it often seems better to stick with what we know, please people, and choose the easiest option. Use your time in high school to take risks: pick the research topics and classes that may be more work but truly excite you, make new friends and reach out to younger students, share your faith fearlessly and don't keep discussions of God confined to your Bible class. Pursue the unexpected opportunities that God places in your life; they will always be better than what you had planned.

My senior thesis topic is on why the Supreme Court should abandon the self-determinist approach to substantive due process in favor of the historical approach. 

If I was a book character, I would be Portia from The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare. She is the master of witty comebacks, cross examinations, and beating people at their own games, and she understands that mercy is a component of true justice. Being her in the court scene would be extremely satisfying.

A blessing from Mrs. Ward: Annalise, you have faithfully stewarded the many gifts God has given you and grown into a young woman who boldly loves what God loves and hates what He hates. Your fervency has been surpassed only by your compassion for others, which has been so beautiful to see. Your commitment to preserving life has been an inspiration to so many in our community, and I pray the Lord will continue to use your efforts to rid our land of the scourge of abortion. You have also been a faithful friend to those around you, truly loving at all times and willing to pour yourself out for others. Your leadership on our mock trial team has been wholly instrumental, and you leave behind student lawyers and witnesses whom you’ve mentored and are honored to take up the mantle of leadership from you.

Jackson Keatts

My favorite memory from my time at Rockbridge was going undefeated in our regular soccer season and winning the MIAC championship senior year.  

As a word of advice to those I leave behind: Stay on track (if not ahead) on thesis work. If you do this, you will have an easy junior/senior year. There will be little to no stress, your rhetoric teacher and thesis advisor will be pleased with you, and believe it or not, you might actually enjoy your thesis topic and the process of writing your thesis.    

For my senior thesis, I am arguing that the government should further fund ocean exploration. 

I would ask the Rockbridge community to pray that I will find a suitable church and excellent student ministry wherever I choose to attend college. I also ask that in college, the Lord will provide me with trials that will draw me continually closer to Him. Lastly, I ask for prayer to spread the Word to many unbelievers and that God will provide me with the voice to do so effectively.

If I were to live as a book character, I would have to choose Harry Potter. Imagine, at the young age of 11, you are invited to a school to learn wizardry, brew potions, and learn about all sorts of mythical creatures. I would get to fly on a broom, fight evil, and live with my best friends. What more could I ask for?

A blessing from Mr. Menkis: Jackson, always remember you are a beloved, blood-bought, son of God. You are dead to sin and alive in Christ, as a new creation. Though I have only known you a short while, I admire your faith and conviction. I have seen you display courage, cheerfulness, and compassion on a daily basis. Continue to follow Christ and God will strengthen and sustain you. Know that your life will be full of joy as well as sorrow, ease and hardship—but in all things remember: “we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls” (Hebrews 10:39). As you go forth, I leave you with this promise and blessing: “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” (Romans 16:20).

Emma Northup

My favorite memory of my time at Rockbridge is more of a collection of
memories or a daily pattern that I cherish. Every morning, I would walk into the school with my dad from the back parking lot for faculty prayer. Every morning, we would marvel at God's creation, either the new unique sunrise God painted for us to open the day with, or the fog blanketed over the cemetery across the street that represents the comfort in God's garden, or the bitter ice and snow churning to sludge making the fresh air crisp in our lungs. Every season we saw, discussed, lived, and loved God's creation. 

As a word of advice to those I leave behind: Philippians 4:5 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” This verse has been very helpful to me lately because I recently came across a scientific study that discovered how certain parts of the human brain that process thankfulness and anxiety cannot coexist, so you cannot be anxious in a state of thankfulness. This has encouraged me to self-assess in times of anxiety and provides a sense of not being so self-centered.

My senior thesis topic is on the essence of feminity.   

As for a book character, I would choose to live as Helen from Jane Eyre. Helen is the sweet little girl, that encourages Jane to persevere through hardships. Jane calls Helen her 'doctrine of endurance.' She suffers from severe physical pain, some enforced by her authorities, yet she remains faithful, kind, and always selfless. She cares solely for herself in a way where she is always concerned about improving herself instead of judging others' faults. Helen is an exemplary Christian from such a young age that I hope to be like.

A blessing from Mr. Vaughn: “My son, hear the instruction of your father, And do not forsake the law of your mother; For they will be a graceful ornament on your head, And chains about your neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9) Emma, you were taught from a young age that, as a Northup, you fear God and no man. In your character, graces, and virtues, you are unmistakably a Northup. Just like your father, Nathan, and mother, Merry, you are ready and joyfully willing to stand contra mundum for what you believe to be right, true, and beautiful. I will be praying for you, that our God would grant you courage and every needed virtue to follow His will and that you would find your greatest joy and happiness in fearing God above all.

Katelyn Gilbert

A blessing from Mrs. Kennedy: Katelyn, I have so much enjoyed watching you learn in physics this year, seeing your growing talent and interest in computing and cyberspace. This field, and life in general, is so full of the unknown. I would bet that your future career has yet to even be created! As you move forward into this unknown, remember that God is sovereign of all things past, present, and future. Part of our joy as humans is to form explanations and equations to model the universe; yet it’s always good to be reminded that there is so much more. If you ever feel bogged down in the very human details of life and work, read this passage from 2 Kings 6:17, and marvel at the glory and mystery of the Lord: “Then Elisha prayed and said, ‘O LORD, please open his eyes that he may see.’ So the LORD opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”

Violet Salada

I'd have to say that one of my favorite memories of my time at Rockbridge was the not-surprise surprise party my homeroom threw for Dr. Seufert in 9th grade. We very tactfully came up with a plan for Timi to present him with five surveys before he got to the classroom so everyone else would have time to decorate and set up the food. However, both earlier in the week and earlier that day, we had close calls when it came to keeping our plan a secret and, if I remember correctly, one of the 11th graders that year even accidentally spoiled the surprise. Regardless, we had a fun time celebrating with him, and I have lots of great memories from that day in particular!    

As a word of advice to those I leave behind, take time to get to know those around you, especially your classmates. I often find myself wishing I knew some of my classmates better than I do, even some who I've been with since kindergarten. There's no guarantee that you'll see any of your classmates after graduation, but that's no excuse to keep you from fostering a relationship with them while you're at school. In fact, it'll make the prospect of coming to school so much brighter if you have good friends to hang out with while you're there. Besides, just taking the time to learn a little something new about a person, insignificant as it may seem, is a way to make them feel seen and loved. Small relationships like these go a long way.    

For my senior thesis, I am comparing Christian contentment with the idea of romanticizing life to see if the two can be reconciled.    

Please pray for me to follow God's calling for me wherever I go. 

As for a book character, I would probably have to pick Keladry of Mindelan from one of my favorite series, The Protector of the Small Quartet. She goes from a young girl who is forced to face down bullies and opposition to a renowned knight. I know the series isn't one many people are familiar with, but it's one I enjoy coming to again and again because of Keladry. She inspired me to reach for my goals even when it seems like nothing is going my way, and she always seemed to be the perfect mix of courage and compassion. Besides, the fantasy world author Tamora Pierce created is one I'd love to explore for myself!    

A blessing from Mrs. Ball: Violet, it has been my joy to watch you grow from a sweet, helpful Assistant to the Producer to a fearless, expressive storyteller who has performed at Carnegie Hall. You see people as individuals who are created in God’s image and honor them with respect and care. You live out your faith in boldness and intellectual honesty, forsaking rose-colored glasses for the profound joy and deep lament in hope of the psalmist.  As you pursue your love of theater in earnest next year, I pray Psalm 27 over you. May you ever seek to dwell in the house of the Lord and gaze upon His beauty. May you never lose the firm belief that you will look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!  May His richest blessing rest upon you, Violet Salada.

Rachel Lee

A blessing from Mrs. Ault:  Rachel, the Lord has given you a delightful array of gifts—an eye and ear for beauty, hands skilled with the violin and paintbrush, a bright mind and keen sense of humor, and a heart bold for His truth (and the cross-country course)!  Most precious of all is the gracious, Christ-like humility that permeates everything about you—your sweet greetings in the hallway, the loving way you speak about your younger sisters, your faithful and quiet service as a house leader, the kindness you’ve shown in illustrating Scripture for my office. Wherever He leads, may the Lord continue to establish your steps, fill you with wisdom, surprise you with joy, and allow you to “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God”  (Ephesians 3:19). Godspeed, dear Rachel!

Elizabeth McMahon

A blessing from Mrs. Ward: Elizabeth, the Lord has truly gifted you with an eye for beauty, whether in the drawn or written works of your hands. You remind me greatly of Bezalel, whom God gifted specifically to implement the artistry of the Tabernacle, and who was filled “with God’s Spirit, with wisdom, understanding, and ability in every kind of craft to design artistic works…” I pray that as you continue as a sub-creator, your work will always point others to the beauty of Christ and that which we’ll someday enjoy in Heaven. May your love for reading never diminish, nor your passion for a beautifully crafted sentence. Finally, “[l]et no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12)

Gracie Solomon

A blessing from Mrs. Keatts:  Gracie, over the past few years I have admired your steadfast love of the Lord and how you display beautiful Christian character in everything that you do. Galatians 5:22-23 states “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..” Gracie, when I read this verse, it reminds me of your genuine spirit. Whether you are a student in my class or passing me in the hallway, your smile and greeting always brightens my day. I will truly miss your gentleness, goodness, and kindness and I pray that you continue to grow in Christ as you move on to your next path of life. May you be a blessing to the new friends who you will meet and the professors who will have the pleasure of teaching you.

Hannah Bates

My favorite memory is not of a specific event but of a general event that has happened every Monday for as long as I can remember. On Monday mornings, as any Rockbridge student would know, we are forced from our comfortable, quiet homerooms into one of the school’s meeting spots, whether it was the Big House’s gymacafeteria or our current dining hall, for a devotional with the surrounding grades. It is at this time every week that I realize how lucky I am to be at Rockbridge. Nobody wants to be at school on a Monday morning, yet this gathering makes it a bit more bearable. Here, our principal, now Mrs. Ball, reads to us one of her favorite faith-based poems and offers an encouraging Biblical message for the week. We finish the morning off with a hymn and this is where the magic happens. As I hear the voices of my peers lift up God’s name on the first day of every week, I close my eyes and listen. It fills me with contentment and directs my heart towards God. What a gift to be able to go to a school that does this!    

As a word of advice: Stick to your convictions. To the students I leave behind, know that God will give you the strength to persevere and do the right thing even when you think it will destroy your entire social life. On an encouraging note, it rarely ever does, but if it does, your real friends will stick closer to you for it! To those who leave for college and adult life with me, be encouraged by the many mentors and round table discussions we have had these past years. You have researched and processed your faith. Remember why you keep it and continuously defend it with logic and faith against the slander of others, but especially against the baseless doubts you will inevitably have.   

My senior thesis will be on the topic of the constitutionality of the Espionage Act of 1917, which is most commonly used to prosecute government whistle-blowers.

Please pray for wisdom as I approach this next era of my life and look to follow where God leads me. I would appreciate prayer for growth in time-management skills as I tackle senior thesis and future college-level assignments. Additionally, I would like prayer for wisdom and guidance on dealing with a chronic condition (EDS) that I recently learned about. 

The problem with the question about a book character, is that all my favorite books deal with tragic events and flawed characters even if they end happily. Since this is the case, I’d rather not join any of their worlds if I don’t have to (unless it's a magical land from a children’s storybook, but I don't think that counts). So, I will instead tell you my favorite book character and what she means to me. C.S. Lewis captured my heart with his character, Orual, in Till We Have Faces. She is a deeply flawed and selfish woman who seeks to possess her sister and her best friend in order to fill herself with love. It is not until she comes face to face with God that she realizes that only He can truly fill her. It was through this story that I learned of my own faults and sinful tendencies that stayed hidden from me beforehand. I can honestly say without exaggeration that this book and its main character spoke to and turned my sinful heart closer to God and His perfect love.  

A blessing from Miss Godfrey: Hannah, you honestly pursue wisdom and truth. I enjoy how you pop by to discuss literature in more depth with me. I appreciate your humility and desire to seek out mentors and think through ideas deeply. I fondly recall several lunch chats we’ve had over the years. You also have a beautiful desire to befriend and care for other people. I look forward to seeing how the Lord cultivates this, giving you opportunities to selflessly love others. May you know the secure love of God and the hope that he offers us in Christ. Hold onto His promise, “Behold, I am making all things new!” (Rev. 21:5) While we live in brokenness, He is faithful, and He is at work! I pray that you will always see the light and love of Christ shining bright in this dark world.

Kate Spraul

One of my favorite memories from my time at Rockbridge is from Grand Tour when we sang “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” in a tomb in Mycenae, Greece. The acoustics inside the tomb were incredible, and the harmony was beautiful. It gave me chills, and I felt this inconsolable longing for the return of Christ and the joyous singing that will take place on that day. While I was singing in the tomb, I was reminded that beauty reaches even the darkest of places. Beauty sings that death does not have the last word.   

As a word of advice to my fellow non-senior Rockbridge students: Get to know your teachers. You will find godly men and women overflowing with wisdom and compassion for their students. This is a gift. Seek them out. Ask them questions about their lives. Let them get to know you. They are here for you, and they want to know you. They have helped me grow in my faith, and they have encouraged me to pursue what I love. They have been there for me during the ups and downs of life and given me valuable advice along the way. They can do the same for you.

For my senior thesis I will be defending the following: Trans-identified biological males should not compete in women’s sports.     

Please pray that I will have a smooth transition into college life in California. Pray that I would grow in my faith and find a community of kindred spirits who love the Lord. Pray that God would keep me healthy so I can continue to pursue what I love in the classroom and in the pool.

If I could have lived as a book character, I would be Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables. She has an active imagination and a heart overflowing with love for others. She is passionate, bright, and spunky—a kindred spirit, and a deep feeler. I would love to walk the shores of Prince Edward Island like she does and dream about people and countries far away—but as Anne grows to learn in her life, the most riveting stories and dearest people are those right in front of you. 

A blessing from Miss Godfrey: Kate. Driven, diligent, pensive, kind, gentle, gracious Kate. You have faithfully cultivated the gifts God has given you in school and in swimming. It is exciting to see the success God has blessed you with and the way He has provided Westmont for your future. You have this ability to consider ideas with balance and view the people before you with compassion. Christ and his saving work are quick to your tongue; I appreciate how quickly you consider everything in the light of Christ. I pray that you will always “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind and your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27) Continue to witness to the watching world the true life that is found in Christ alone! 

Naomi Schrader

My favorite Rockbridge memory is from this year’s Captain’s Cup. My homeroom won with our skit titled Christmas in the Thinking Chair. It was a great bonding experience, and I really enjoyed it. 

As a word of advice to those I leave behind: Investing in friendship is worth the effort.     

For my senior thesis, I am researching body dysmorphia in the ballet industry. 

I would appreciate prayer for wisdom in college decisions. 

As for a book character I can relate to, I would have to say Nancy Drew. I love solving mysteries and reading books.

A blessing from Mrs. Kennedy:  Naomi, your sweet and gentle spirit is a blessing to your friends and family. Whether you are working with classmates on a school project, or sitting in church with your siblings, your grace and tenderness with others is always evident. My prayer for you: as you make decisions for the next stage of your life, remember to rest in God’s providence. Our Father, who cares for his beloved children, will reveal your path one step at a time as you rely on him. “But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, which shines brighter and brighter until full day.” (Proverbs 4:18) May you walk in that beautiful morning light, day by day, and marvel at the steady unfolding of his perfect will for your future.

Emma Leeman

I honestly had a difficult time trying to pick one favorite memory from my time at Rockbridge. I am so grateful for my class, the conversations we've had, and the memories we've shared. If I had to pick one favorite memory, I would probably choose our first night in Delphi. About ten other people from my class and I sat on the balcony outside our hotel. The sun was down, and we all sat in a circle and laughed as we recalled stories from past years at Rockbridge. I am going to miss you all so much. I wouldn't trade any of the conversations I've had with you guys for the world.

A word of advice that I would offer to Rockbridge students is to prioritize your relationship with the Lord. During the school year especially, it is so easy for us to forget how important this is because we are constantly focused on doing the next thing. Force yourself to take time out of your day to slow down, open your Bible, and meditate on the wonderful truths found in his Word. He is your source of peace and comfort, not getting an A on your next test. When I didn't take the time to do this, I actually had a harder time managing my life well because I needed a constant reminder of his goodness and love. No matter how chaotic life and school may get, don't forget how important your relationship with Him is. He is worth it. Trust me. 

My senior thesis will be on the topic of therapeutic culture. 

If I could be any book character, I would pick Daniel Nayeri from Everything Sad is Untrue. Daniel (also the author of the story) accounts his life growing up as an Iranian refugee. Even as a young child, his perspective of the world demonstrates his curiosity, wittiness, creativity, and wisdom beyond his years. He creatively intertwines ancient myths that add excitement and color to his story, and he offers hope despite hardships such as a broken family, bullying, persecution, and refugee camps. Amidst these trials, he is determined to persevere.    

A blessing from Mrs. Ball: “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple.” The Lord has given artists a special privilege, to use their talents to adorn the spaces we inhabit, the quiet places where He meets us in our homes and the public spaces in which we live our lives together. As Bezalel was filled with the Spirit of God, may you ever use your pens and paints, canvases and charcoal, time and talents to praise Him and bring joy to His people. As you spend time in that mysterious battleground of the heart, beauty, may the Creator of periwinkle, persimmons, and peacocks hold you in the palm of His hand and confirm and strengthen you, that you may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Savannah Sexton

One of my favorite memories at Rockbridge is from ninth grade when my homeroom decided to throw Dr. Seufert (our homeroom teacher) a surprise birthday party. We thought that he had no idea of our wonderful plan. We ordered pizza, bought chocolate milk, and decided that the best way to stall him in the hall was to make up some random survey (which looking back, it was very obvious that we were up to something.) A more recent favorite memory of mine is from Grand Tour. It was the second to last day in Rome, and we all had to walk an hour back to the hotel from Hadrian’s castle. I was in a group of 7, and we decided to eat before taking the long walk. As soon as we left the restaurant, it started pouring rain. While it wasn’t fun getting splashed by cars, it is a memory I look back on fondly. 

My word of advice to those I leave behind is this: cherish those around you. While your graduation might not be for a while, it will come a lot quicker than you expect. In the time you have here, get to know those around you. God has put your classmates, teachers, and faculty in your life for a reason, and don’t take the gift He has given you for granted.     

For my senior thesis, I will be defending the following: Record labels have too much control over recording artists through contracts. 

If I could live as any book character, I would choose Nancy Drew. I grew up wanting to be just as intelligent and courageous as she was. She was a role model for me when I was younger. I wish I could solve practically unsolvable mysteries like she could. Unfortunately, I have not grown up to be a teen detective, but either way, I think it would be an injustice to my younger self if I chose any other character. 

A blessing from Miss Godfrey: Savannah, it is a gift to know you; your energy bubbles up and brightens the room. Your care and empathy for others are evident in the way you consider other people’s perspectives in literature. I also love your contributions to House Athens intramural competitions. Shakespeare’s line, “though she be but little, she be fierce” reminds me of you.  You are loving, loyal, brave, passionate, and tenacious. Fiercely pursue Christ; all else will fail, but He will never fail you. May you say with Paul, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8). I pray that you will know the delight of our Heavenly Father, how he sings over you, upholds you, and has plans for your good.  May you find rest and peace in His great love for you.

Riley Runge

My favorite memory from my time at Rockbridge is by far the lunches I spent outside with friends throughout my rhetoric years—getting to know people better, having deep conversations, silly conversations, talking about interests or feelings, being able to be there for each other, and having people be there for you, no matter what age or grade. I really cherish the laughs I have had with my friends out on the soccer fields and playground. Getting that well deserved and needed break to be able to relax with friends is something I will never forget.    

As a word to those I leave: Your mental health is extremely important overall and also for doing school work. Don’t be afraid to take breaks and ask for help, whether that’s from a counselor, parent, family member, friend, or teacher. 

My senior thesis topic is on the identification and treatment of bipolar disorder and the controversy of said treatment in the medical community.

Please pray that I will be able to keep up with all my school work while doing extra-curricular activities and for encouragement along the way. Please pray that I will have wisdom and peace in learning to navigate adulthood and college while learning to be more independent.

If I could choose to live as any character of a book, I would have to go with my top two favorite characters (because I can't choose!.) I would either want to live as Lizzy Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, or Olive Smith from The Love Hypothesis. I would pick Lizzy because I love her independence and the way she speaks her mind. I would pick Olive because she is super smart, and she's clumsy and goofy. Both characters have good hearts and are very caring for the people they love.

A blessing from Mrs. Bachmann: Riley, what a joy and privilege it has been to watch you grow and mature throughout your time here from that bitty kindergartner to a young woman getting ready to launch out into the world. You are kind, compassionate, and an encourager to those around you. You have persevered through difficult trials, all while maintaining your sweet spirit. Riley, my prayer for you is that you can reflect on your time here at Rockbridge as a testimony of the love God has for you. May you always look to Him for your comfort, peace, and strength. “I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Nash Bailey

My favorite memory at Rockbridge was winning Captain’s Cup with Andrew Ball last year with a rather marvelous adaptation of a scene from White Christmas.  

As for a word of advice to those I leave behind, continue to work hard now so you aren’t playing catch up later. Enjoy difficult things. Finally, challenge yourself; don’t dwell in your comfort zone!     

My senior thesis is about the United States Navy’s approach to dealing with Chinese aggression in the South Pacific. 

A blessing from Mr. Vaughn: “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.” (2 Tim. 1:5) Nash, you have received many good gifts through your education at Rockbridge Academy. I remember the first time you spoke before the Debate class as a young eighth grader. You shocked everyone with your natural talents for debate. I knew that with a little training you would soon become a powerful weapon against our rivals at Summit and Delaware. But more important than these skills of debating or rhetoric, you have inherited a living faith from your parents, from your church, and from your Rockbridge teachers. May the Lord strengthen you to guard this deposit of faith and continue in what you have learned.

Eryn Sell

One of my favorite memories of my time at Rockbridge was the history parade in sixth grade.   

As a word to those I leave behind: Get enough sleep. Even if that's at the cost of homework or activities, overall you'll be healthier and have a better attention span in class, leading to less work and better grades in the long run.  

My thesis involves researching how doctors should start prescribing more life-style based treatments instead of only relying on drugs.

A blessing from Mrs. Ball:  It has been a tremendous blessing to welcome you back into the Rockbridge community this year, Eryn. The Lord has gifted you with a steadiness and fierce determination that will serve you well wherever you are planted. You are a natural leader and loving friend, and your energetic smile brings joy to everyone around you. As you move on to your next adventure, I pray that you will be strengthened with all might by the Spirit, and that being rooted and grounded in love, you may be able to comprehend what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, of the love of Christ. May He ever hold you close, increase your faith, and enable you to walk in wisdom with the hope of glory.

Ezra Kennedy

My favorite memory from my time at Rockbridge has to be when we won the MIAC championship this soccer season. It was the perfect culminating event of my time on the Rockbridge soccer team, and it felt especially good considering the fact that we lost the championship the previous year. I recall standing on the foggy field while wearing the banner as a cape; I stared majestically into the distance as if I was the protector of Gotham City. That was a great feeling. Better yet, winning this banner was a special moment of fellowship. Many of the guys in my grade have played on the team for the past four years. During this time, we have built special bonds through soccer. I am exceedingly glad that we had the privilege to finish our final season together with the school’s second ever championship win and a banner to prove it.    

In an attempt to partially dodge inevitable clichés, here is some hopefully practical wisdom I have accumulated: sleep at least 8 hours a night; take cold showers every morning to wake up; say hi to people in the hallways; befriend younger kids (they are secretly cool too); laugh really hard at least once a day (very important); ask teachers questions about their personal life–it is fun to get to know them; participate in activities you are on the fence about–you will probably enjoy them. It is easier to drop that activity than to start late; tell your friends about your struggles–it deepens friendships; pray with your friends; read the Bible every morning–it properly orients your mindset for the day. Lastly, stress less and do your best. God opens and closes doors, you just have to keep walking. 1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.”    

My senior thesis topic is on why satire is an important tool for Christian apologetics.    

Please pray that God would grant me wisdom in whether I should attend a Service Academy/ROTC school or a civilian school for college. Contained in that decision, pray that I would find Christian community (church, clubs, friends) that will continue to strengthen my faith after leaving Rockbridge.   

If I could live as any book character, it would definitely be 12-year-old Sam Gribley from My Side of the Mountain. Sam ran away from his family’s cramped New York City apartment to live at his great-grandfather’s abandoned farm in the Catskill Mountains. When I read this book as a kid, I was very intrigued by Sam’s self-sufficient wilderness lifestyle. Sam undergoes many challenges living in a hollowed-out tree home with his pet peregrine falcon named Frightful. After some time, Sam is desperate for community with other people, so he plans to visit his family. Surprisingly, Sam’s family visits him and announces their plan to move to the farm. At the end of the novel, Sam concludes that life is about balancing his desire to live off the land with his desire to be with the people he loves. This is a philosophy that I strongly resonate with because I share similar passions for both nature and my family.

A blessing from Mrs. Keatts: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Romans 1:16. Ezra, when I think about how boldly Paul spread the word about our Lord, it makes me think of your strong faith and the gift of eloquent discourse that God has given to you. Your faith is evident as you interact with your peers, opponents on the soccer field, the young men that you mentor as well as with strangers that do not share your same Christian beliefs. Ezra, I pray that your faith continues to grow and you continue to spread the word of God as your journey continues after graduation.

Jessi Wenger

My favorite Rockbridge memory was the snowball fight we had at school during freshman year. I remember the excitement of snow starting to fall heavily and feeling very cozy in my classroom with my friends. Then, when lunchtime came, we all went outside and had an amazing snowball fight with the entire upper school. We hid behind cars in the parking lot and chased people around in the main field. I remember Dr. Seufert amazing everyone with his curveballs. When we went back inside, the snow came through a hole in the wall and melted, so when I got back to work, water started gushing out of the ceiling onto me and my schoolwork. It was such an exciting and unforgettable day.    

As a word to those I leave behind: God is sovereign over your life. He has a plan for each day of your life here on earth, and no stress of school or trial you face is outside of His control or too much for His strength to bear you through. Nothing you do can separate you from His love. Even the lost sheep who chose to wander away from the good shepherd was sought after and brought home. He chose you from among the goats, and not one of His elect can ever fall away. We love God because He first loved us.

My senior thesis will discuss how consumerism as a social construct leads to discontentment. 

Please pray that my family and I would be able to continue to heal from the loss of my dad, and that God would provide a pastor to fill our pulpit who preaches the gospel boldly and unashamedly, convicting the congregation, yet always pointing back to the finished work of Christ and the hope found in our citizenship of a heavenly country.    

As for a book character, I would choose Anne of Green Gables. Her life was not easy, but her joy found in the world around her is truly beautiful. She finds a poetic sense of wonder in the natural world, and never grows out of the joy found in imagination. She has a truly selfless love for those around her. She has wonderful, supportive friends and mentors, an amazing love interest, and an unwavering faith amidst her trials. When Matthew, who was basically her father, died unexpectedly, she grieves deeply and she has to give up her dreams in order to care for Marilla, yet her closing line of the book is, "God's in his heaven, all is well."

A blessing from Miss Godfrey: Jessi, God has given you the beautiful gift of gentle leadership—you unwaveringly hold fast to God and His truth and present it earnestly to others. Over the years, you have poured into this community and lead with grace and wisdom. You also have an inspiring creative vision: you express truth in beautiful and compelling ways through dance, song, poetry, and prose. May you always see in story the power of God’s redemptive story. I pray Psalm 27 over you—that you would “dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of your life and gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” As Lewis says in The Chronicles of Narnia, “Further up and further in!” May you find rest as you seek His face; “Be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!”

Rebecca Farris

This year’s cross-country season was one of my favorite Rockbridge memories. Every year I’m amazed by the encouraging community that forms throughout the season. This culminated at the end-of-season party, where the coaches praised each runner and talked about how they had grown that season. It reminded me how much I love running and the really fun season. This was such a sweet reminder of the privilege I’ve had to be part of the cross-country community for six years!    

As a word of advice to those I leave behind, enjoy time with your friends. It is such a gift that we’ve had the opportunity to get to know our classmates for so many years. This is true for sports teams especially. Sports can take up a lot of time, so try to get to know your teammates as much as you can. They may end up being your best friends! I have learned so much about the sport and about life from listening to older teammates.    

For my senior thesis, I will be answering the question, “Was Ethel Rosenberg, the wife of a Soviet spy, guilty of espionage and deserving of the death penalty?”

Please pray for wisdom and discernment as I make my college decision and that God would show me how I should pursue my running career in college.     

If I could be a book character, I would want to be Sailor York from the book series Explorer Academy. She attends Explorer Academy, which is a school that takes place on a ship that travels to the place the explorers learn about. They also complete incredible missions with high-tech gear. I would love to be this character because I think it would be an amazing way to do school and see the world at the same time.

A blessing from Mrs. Ball: Rebecca, the one who longs to feel the grass beneath her feet, runs with reckless abandon, and smiles with a twinkle in her eye. It is an honor to write a blessing for one who has blessed me so profoundly over many years. Sharing summer long runs, grueling early season meets, and hours upon hours of practice has allowed me to watch you pour into everyone around you, making younger girls know they are loved, encouraging the injured or brokenhearted, and calling others and yourself to greatness tempered with humility. My prayer for you is that your heart will ever be drawn to the Lord, and that you would feel His nearness as you call on Him in truth. May you ever delight in His everlasting kingdom and find His grace sufficient for all of your needs.

Sophia Tomassoni

One of my favorite memories from Rockbridge was the second to last day of school in my junior year. Our grade finished listening to the last of the junior theses that morning. We were released to go out and grab food. Then we came back together and had a picnic on the field. It was a gorgeous day, the sun was shining, someone brought a speaker outside, and we started playing volleyball. Nerves felt a little high because (I think) a lot of us were anticipating Grand Tour, which we left for three days later. I remember thinking to myself how blessed I was to share a foundational growth period of my life with people I really loved. It was a sweet moment, a small taste of the eternal feast and joy we will one day get in Heaven. 

A word of wisdom I have slowly begun to learn over my lifetime is to cling to the wonder of the gospel. It seems obvious but it can be challenging if you, like me, have grown up in a Christian home and lived in Christian communities where love is a given. That is not true for many people. Many people aren't ignorant about the brokenness of the world, they're ignorant about how to solve it. That's why they look to themselves or other people to fill that gap. But the gap was only ever able to be filled by the innocent blood of our Savior standing in our place. That truth, the gospel, is radical. It is unlike any other religion or love in the world. For the students at Rockbridge and all those reading this, I challenge you, as you study the word of God, never lose your zeal for the gospel. If you are in awe of the gospel, share it. It will be the most worthwhile thing you will ever speak about.

My senior thesis will be about the human sex trafficking industry in America.

If I were able to choose a character from any book, I would be Katniss Everdeen. I remember reading the books as a child and thinking about what I would do if I was in her situation. She fiercely protects those she loves, her mom and sister. She was unafraid to challenge the injustice of the system everyone else quietly followed. She took action to defy the government by highlighting the humanity of the people sent in the arena in fight. And she would rather die than be rewarded by the tyrant over her. Her tenacity and drive for the people has always made me want to be her, though I doubt I'd be half as brave as she was. 

A blessing from Mrs. Keatts: Sophia, God has gifted you with a servant’s heart and an abundance of kindness, compassion, and love to share with everyone that you meet. You pour your heart into everything you do with diligence and thoroughness. I have witnessed this in you as you interact with your peers as well as the younger students in our school. As you graduate from Rockbridge, I pray that you will continue to diligently seek God for guidance in each new situation and circumstance. Hebrews 11:6 states “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.” Sophia, I will truly miss our chats and hugs of encouragement. I will pray for you often as you continue on your next life journey.

Hannah Bumgarner

My favorite memory from my time at Rockbridge comes from sixth grade on our Gettysburg field trip. Mr. Lawing was our tour guide and showed us how to operate a cannon. He then decided to have us pretend to fire it. The group I was in was selected for manning the cannon while everyone else ran up a hill toward us. As Mr. Lawing yelled "Go!" everyone went racing up the hill toward us while we got the cannon ready. My job was to pull the pin out of the cannon to 'fire' it and as I did, Mr. Lawing turned to everyone sprinting toward us, raised his arms up high, and yelled, "BOOM!" Then everyone running fell down almost in sync, and we all burst out laughing.    

As a word of advice to those I leave behind: No matter how tough it gets or what life throws at you, always remember that God has you in His hands. He loves you, and He will never abandon you because you are His beloved child.    

For my senior thesis, I will be answer the following: Was dropping the atomic bomb justified?    

If I could live as a book character, I would be King Arthur. I think it would be fun to go on adventures with close friends like he and his knights did.

A blessing from Mrs. Monica Davis:  Sweet Hannah, what a blessing it is to get to know you! Your sense of humor is delightful, and you brought so much joy to our homeroom and math class! I have seen you choose to do something difficult and then see it through to the end with a perseverance that was inspiring. You also love others fiercely. I was personally touched many times by your genuine care for me; you made me feel seen and known. This a such a gift! 

As you begin this next chapter, I pray Psalm 20 over you: “May the name of the God of Jacob protect you! May he send you help from the sanctuary and give you support from Zion!...May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfil all your plans!” Trust in the Lord all your days, Hannah! He is worthy!"

Michael Grube

One of my favorite memories from Rockbridge was winning the MIAC soccer championship this year. I also made a lot of memories with my classmates on Grand Tour. For me, it was not a specific place in Greece or Italy; it was being able to explore these cities by ourselves and experience different cultures together.    

One piece of advice for those I leave behind would be to not become complacent in high school, especially in junior and senior year. Keep trying to challenge yourself both academically and physically; challenge yourself to be the best that you can be. Whether it's doing better on the next essay, hitting a new PR on your mile time, or looking for more people to encourage, keep setting goals for yourself to achieve.   

My senior thesis deals with the ethics of Bonhoeffer's assassination attempt on Hitler. Was Bonhoeffer justified in trying to kill Hitler?    

Please pray that God can use me wherever he sends me, whether that's the Naval Academy or some other college. Pray that I can be a light and show the love of Christ to the people around me. Pray that I will not lose sight of God's love, and that I will be surrounded by other godly people to help strengthen me in my faith. 

If I could live as a book character, I would be Odysseus. I mean: what's better than sailing around the world and fighting monsters with the boys? I would be a salty, old sailor and a hardened war hero. I would also have a faithful wife, who will wait for me while I sail around the world, and a great son; I would slaughter anyone who tries to get between me and my family. After my lengthy career as a sailor, I would retire and walk inland with an oar on my shoulder until someone doesn't recognize it. There, I would plant my oar, build a house, and live out the rest of my days enjoying the good life.

A blessing from Mr. Lawing: Michael, these years together here at Rockbridge have been your training ground. You have excelled at acquiring the skills necessary to successfully navigate the journey that lies before you. You have adorned your vessel with kindness, humility, discipline, and honor. As the beckoning tide calls you to cut loose your moorings and set sail away from this safe and blessed harbor, may God grant you a glorious voyage. As you travel into unchartered waters, may your bow set straight a course of obedience, faithfulness, longsuffering, and joy. When the waves beat against you in fury and the storms threaten to capsize you, may the Lord of the storm comfort and keep you, steady and unflinching, in pursuit of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Fight the good fight, Michael! Keep the faith! See you on the other side!

John Schingeck

One of my favorite memories from my time at Rockbridge comes from my junior year. The span from the last few weeks of school to the end of Grand Tour produced some of my favorite memories. From spending time playing volleyball and spike ball with my classmates and teachers, to dinner conversations on Grand Tour, these experiences are imprinted on my mind, and I am blessed to have been able to spend a lot of quality time with my grade as a whole towards the end of my time at Rockbridge.    

To those I leave behind at Rockbridge, my advice is to not procrastinate, and to always put in the work. Even if you know you can pass with little to no studying, I charge you to still put in your best effort, so as to glorify God in all your classes.    

My senior thesis addresses American trade with China, specifically technology and the impact it has on China's development and American interests.  

If I could be anyone in the literature I've read, I would choose to be one of the Weasley twins because of the carefree and wild life that they lived. I don't remember which one lives, but I'd be that one.

A blessing from Mrs. Keatts: Since kindergarten, I have watched you grow into a young man with a strong Christian character as you display kindness, forgiveness, thankfulness, and helpfulness towards everyone around you. You are quick to help your friends, and you have always been so helpful to me whether the task was big or small. Whether it was moving my lab tables or hanging an eyewash station, you were always ready to help. As you continue on to the next stage of the journey God has for you, I encourage you to use the kindness and service-centered Christian character that He has gifted to you. ""...(you) should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord."" 1 Peter 4: 10-11

Hannah Kaiss

Looking back on my time at Rockbridge, I don't have a specific favorite memory. When I think of the memories I love the most, I think of all the little things. I think of laughing with my friends till we cry. I think of days when class is almost over yet we're still on the first slide. I think of when things go hilariously wrong. All those little things, those moments of laughter and joy and chaos, those are my favorite memories. When I look back at my Rockbridge career, it's the time with the people that I remember. In many ways, those little moments of chaos and joy shaped my character far more than any lecture or assignment ever could.

I don't have much wisdom, but there is one thing I've learned from my time at Rockbridge: don't be afraid to disagree with people. There will always be a certain set of beliefs that you are expected to conform to, some of them good and some of them bad. In general, these ideas are blindly accepted, but they shouldn't be. Humans are far from infallible, and some of these ideas may be wrong. However, if no one has the guts to disagree, nothing will change. Voiced disagreement sparks discussion and deep analysis of these ideas. Sometimes the commonly accepted ideas will be wrong, and sometimes your ideas will be wrong. Either way, no one grows, and nothing changes if no one dares to disagree. 

My senior thesis is about the importance of physical activity for brain health and development in students.  

In terms of a book character, many of my friends know how much I love Winnie-the-Pooh, so it may come as no surprise that I would love to live as him. This may seem silly and childish, but I think it is quite the opposite. Pooh is far superior to many people I have met and many people I have learned about. This is not due to his superior intelligence (for in many ways he does not have that). It is due to the fact that Pooh knows how to live. He takes life at a slow pace. Some may simply call him lazy, but he is not. Pooh knows how to actually live life, how to be present in the moment. He knows how to stop and smell the roses. In fact, he knows how to stop and smell the flowers of less fame as well. He appreciates the little things in life, the things most people pass over or cast off as unworthy. God made the little things good; we must learn to stop and appreciate them, to glean God's wisdom from them. Pooh appreciates the world around him and the people around him, and my desire is to imitate that silly, old bear.

A blessing from Miss Knoll:  Hannah, it has been such a delight to watch you grow in preparation for studying math education. I cannot wait until you enter the classroom as the teacher, not the student! Though you have not begun your official teacher training, you already practice daily a characteristic of a great teacher—love. Your love for others is evident in every interaction—lacrosse coach, prayer leader, tutor, and loyal friend. 

Paul told the Corinthian church that without love we are but clanging gongs; without love, we are and gain nothing. I pray that as you leave these halls and officially begin teacher training that your love for others blossoms. May your love grow in its patience and kindness. May it increase in humility, forgiveness, and joy. May your love for others point them to the greatest gift of love, Jesus Christ.