Passion, and what you do with it, served as the prevailing theme in Saturday's Horizon Christian School Commencement for the Class of 2011.
"We are citizens of heaven and we must put our hearts into all we do and breath with all passion that's within us," valedictorian Tiffany Lehman said. "Because if we live with purpose, with passion, we're going to be successful."
"Passion is the first step toward achieving great things. Nothing great was ever accomplished without passion," said guest speaker Brandy Rovianek Walton, a graduate of Summit Christian School (now Horizon) in 2000 and now an adjunct professor of business at Warner Pacific College and Portland Community College.
"God has a purpose and a plan for your life. Make sure you are pursuing it passionately, and when you do you will see you are a changed person; and as a changed person you'll have a chance to change the world," Walton said.
One speaker mixed a bit of understatement along with the earnest words of encouragement that marked the day.
"Some of you know my name is Andrew Stenberg," said the 2011 salutatorian. "I have been going to Horizon for the last 13 years of my life."
Stenberg is the last of his family of nine children to attend the school," where his father, Oscar, is a charter teacher and longtime athletic director.
Also graduating were Kayla Williams, Paige Sorensen, Rachel Frost, Monika Sterr, Jordan Andersen, Jonathan Frost, Brent Rovianek, Carlos Quezada, Sam Kirby, Cody Bott, Dylan Molesworth, Kenny Collett and Tanner Pettit.
Presenting the graduates with their diplomas were board members Don Hoffman, Dan Boyden and Darrin Lingel. Acting Principal Connie Nagreen presented the grads with a small towel to go with their diploma. Nagreen said the towel references the Gospel story of Christ washing his disciples' feet.
"The towel is reminder of the humility of Christ and how to best use this (diploma)," she said.
After receiving their diplomas each exited the 50-minute ceremony hand-slapping the Horizon staff.
"It just feels right," Helen Stenberg said of seeing Andrew and the Class of 2010 receive their diplomas. "It's a bittersweet thing but more bitter than sweet. We've been through so much with all of them; but I love the people they have become.
"It's going to feel strange not having one of the kids in school," Oscar Stenberg said. "We've had as many as six at one time over the years. The kids have just plain grown up here."
In Andrew's address, he said, "I am the youngest of nine kids. It has been quite an adventure trying to live up to the legacy left behind by my siblings: physically, mentally, athletically and academically.
"I have enjoyed many a day with my family and at this school. This school has been a blessing to all of us seniors. Here we were pushed by the teachers and staff. We all enjoy a little challenge in our lives, because challenges bring out the true character in people."
On hand for the occasion were Andrew's parents, Oscar and Helen, his grandparents, Ken and Verone Lane, of Hebo, Ore., and his siblings, Kathryn, Nathan, Michael, Joel, Brian, Stephen and Philip. (Erik, who lives in Santa Barbara, Calif., was not present.)
Andrew spoke for the entire class of 2011, saying "We would like to welcome all of the family members, friends and other attending. We enjoy your company today on our momentous achievement.
"Today we are going from seniors to freshmen, from high school to college, from our homes into the real world. We would like to thank each one of you for being here to support us as we make our transfer into the real world."
Walton provided a humorous school memory of her own as she offered words of encouragement to the graduates.
"As you leave high school and embark on this journey of life, I would encourage you to passionately pursue your dreams, let passion drive you to succeed and accomplish great things," said Walton, who also recalled the days when Summit Christian, now Horizon, used the same meeting room for classrooms, science lab and lunchroom.
"We had science class that also served as the dining room. I will remember the unit when we dissected cats and wrapped up the class just before lunch. We washed down the table, pretty good I think, and then sat at those same tables for lunch where we had just dissected cats. Pretty good memory, right, Mr. Brown?" she said to Jim Brown, longtime science teacher at the school. To the students, she said, "you are very privileged to have this beautiful school now."
Walton encouraged the students to "surround yourself with passionate people, such as Mr. Stenberg. He is passionate about God. He is passionate about his family, his friends, the people around him; he is passionate about his students, and one other thing he is passionate about, he is passionate about this school. He loves this school and he's passionate about seeing it succeed.
"So as you are surrounding yourself with passionate people, and you are living a passionate life and you're being changed, and you're seeing changes in the world, you're going to run into obstacles, you're going to run into challenges and things that are trials," Walton said. "So I would encourage you to push through those obstacles, and those trials."