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Sunday, June 1, 2014

South Merrimack Christian Academy grads get inspirational send-off

MERRIMACK – Tom Lamborn had plenty of advice – and inspiration – for the two dozen graduates of South Merrimack Christian Academy on Saturday, but he also saved a healthy amount for parents.

“Be a compass … as they pass through this difficult time,” Lamborn, program director of a Christian adventure camp in Pennsylvania, told graduates’ parents after relating the fact that “a staggering number” of people “walk away from their faith” between ages 18 and 25. ...

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MERRIMACK – Tom Lamborn had plenty of advice – and inspiration – for the two dozen graduates of South Merrimack Christian Academy on Saturday, but he also saved a healthy amount for parents.

“Be a compass … as they pass through this difficult time,” Lamborn, program director of a Christian adventure camp in Pennsylvania, told graduates’ parents after relating the fact that “a staggering number” of people “walk away from their faith” between ages 18 and 25.

“Don’t be afraid to have that difficult conversation.”

The grads – 13 boys and 11 girls –
spent roughly two hours listening to words of advice and encouragement, alternately laughing and tearing up at slideshows of their class trips and younger years and thanking their parents with roses and big hugs in the spacious all-purpose room at the academy, which is affiliated with the Merrimack Valley Baptist Church.

School administrator Brian Burbach pointed out the significance of the name Matthew at the academy:

“Last year, our valedictorian was named Matthew, and this year, both our valedictorian and salutatorian are named Matthew,” he said.

Another of this year’s graduates is named Matthew, as well.

Burbach shared with guests how close valedictorian Matthew Laird and salutatorian Matthew Augusta finished academically: Laird’s final GPA was a mere .003 percent higher than Augusta’s.

“It was so close, I had them both prepare two speeches,” Burbach said.

Laird congratulated his fellow grads in his address.

“We’ve come a long way, a very long way,” he said, going on to add words of encouragement and suggest that working toward happiness, rather than financial reward, is the better path to take.

“You can work very hard and be a millionaire, even a billionaire, but success isn’t measured that way.”

Salutatorian Augusta took a more jovial, informal approach than did Laird, beginning by admitting he was “humbled to represent this class as salutatorian” but quickly adding, “Yeah …
I’m not going to be brief,” and drawing laughs.

He cited class trips, which took the seniors to New York City and Washington, D.C., as some of his favorite times over their senior year, recalling “funny moments … lighter moments” that also defined “senior skip day,” he said.

He directed heartfelt gratitude toward teachers, thanking them for “choosing to come here and investing in our lives,” even though, “I know you could go somewhere else and make more money or have a better job.”

The sentiment was the ideal segue into the tradition in which graduates, each with a rose in hand, fan out to present the flowers to their parents and families.

Burbach took a moment to single out one graduate whose journey was anything but routine.

“I admire you for the strength and courage you’ve shown all of us,” Burbach said to Noah Small, whose lengthy illness a year and a half ago prevented him from completing his graduation requirements.

“We praise God that Noah is able to to walk with us today,” Burbach added, presenting him a special class yearbook his classmates created for him.

Lamborn, meanwhile, left the graduates with several points to ponder as they move forward.

“Social media is not as social as you may think,” he said. “Put down the electronic devices. Live in the real world, have real conversations with real people.

“Rather than trying to find the right person, be that right person. Make good friends. Seek the advice of your parents. They’re smarter than you think they are.

“And be thankful. Thankful people make a difference in the world.”

Dean Shalhoup can be reached
at 594-6443 or dshalhoup@
nashuatelegraph.com.