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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? 

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.