There will be mixed emotions for Betty Lockhart today when she watches students in Christian Heritage School's Class of 2004 walk across the auditorium stage and collect their diplomas.
On one hand, Lockhart, the school's assistant headmaster, is happy the success of the school has enabled it to retain students from the beginning of their school careers through high school graduation.
On the other, she will be sad to hug "goodbye" to students she has known for so many years.
"Some of them are more like friends than students," Lockhart said Wednesday as she watched the group of 12 seniors rehearse for today's ceremonies. "They're really neat kids. You just get so close to them."
The ceremonies are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. in the school's auditorium.
"I'm going to be really sad to see some of them go," Lockhart said.
At 12 students, the Class of 2004 is the largest group of graduating seniors Christian Heritage School has had and perhaps its most diverse.
While last year's graduating class was a tight-knit group of students who had been in school together for many years, the class of 2004 represents a healthy mix of longtime Christian Heritage School students and relative newcomers, Principal Tim Calkins said.
Amanda Rogers is one of the few seniors who has been a Christian Heritage School student since kindergarten. Rogers said what she will miss most is her friends and the morning get-togethers in the school hallway.
Like most of the seniors, Lindsay Marias is eager to move on to the next phase of her life. But she knows there will come a time when reminiscing about her time at the school can't be helped.
"I think once we're gone, we're going to miss it way more than we think," said Marias, who after graduation will travel for three months with the Continentals, a Christian singing group. She plans to attend college after she returns.
Marias and others said they cherish the school's small size, which allowed them to get close to their peers and teachers.
"It's really nice," Marias said. "It's seriously like a family. We're really comfortable around each other."
Despite the school's size, it offers a strong program that well prepares students for whatever the future holds, Calkins said.
"For a small high school, we've been able to offer a program with enough high-level courses where many of them are going off to good colleges and the colleges of their choice," he said.