Kirsten Williams accepts a medal from school administrator Dave Entwistle for being Christian Heritage School’s valedictorian during Sunday’s graduation ceremony in Steamboat Springs.

Photo by Joel Reichenberger

Kirsten Williams accepts a medal from school administrator Dave Entwistle for being Christian Heritage School’s valedictorian during Sunday’s graduation ceremony in Steamboat Springs.

Christian Heritage School graduates 6 in Sunday ceremony

Valedictorian Kirsten Williams gives heartfelt thanks

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Christian Heritage School's Class of 2011

Leah Berdine — Salutatorian, Steam­boat Springs Rotary Club award

Andre Buccinot

Ryan Hall — Brian Houston award

Ashley Latham

David Robey

Kirsten Williams — Valedictorian

Berdine, Hall, Robey and Williams received awards from the Association of Christian Schools International. Hall and Robey were recognized for athletics, while Berdine and Williams were recognized for academics and Christian service. Williams also received recognition for achievements in fine arts.

— Kirsten Williams began her address as valedictorian of Christian Heritage School’s Class of 2011 with, she said Sunday, “a gigantic thank you.”

The former senior and newly minted alumna, bound for Sus­quehanna University in Pennsylvania in fall, took the opportunity to express heartfelt gratitude to her parents, brother and grandparents for all of their support and advice — which came even, Williams acknowledged with a smile, at times when she might not have been as “accepting” of that advice as she could have been.

“I am so incredibly grateful for the unconditional love that you guys have given me,” Williams said Sunday afternoon, as more than 100 friends and family members gathered at the school just west of Steamboat Springs to honor this year’s class of six graduates.

In addition to Williams, those graduates and their fall destinations include salutatorian Leah Berdine, University of Wyoming; Andre Buccino, Wyoming Technical Institute; Ryan Hall, University of Wyoming; Ashley Latham, Colorado Mountain College; and David Robey, University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn.

“It’s definitely going to be sad to say goodbye to them,” school administrator Dave Entwistle said about the class. “But they are ready, and I expect great things.”

Williams said great things start from within. She spoke to her classmates about the importance of “being the best you can be,” an idea she said could seem a little sappy, but actually has a lot of depth.

“I think it’s a really valid idea we can live up to,” Williams said. “It means allowing God to work through us for the good of others.”

Jon Gagnon, pastor of student ministries at Steamboat Christian Center, stressed a similar message of staying true to faith and Christian teachings. Gagnon said his keynote address was his first outing after three weeks at home, recovering from back surgeries. His pent-up energy was clear as he delivered passionate remarks based on principles taught in the Bible.

“In the rocky times, when the ship gets going, you want to hold fast to what you know to be true,” Gagnon told the graduates.

Sunday marked an especially remarkable day for graduate Ryan Hall, who attended Christian Heritage from kindergarten through high school. Entwistle said Hall was the first student to do that entirely at Christian Heritage’s current location, in Heritage Park.

Hall said it was hard to see many people come and go during his time at the school, but overall, he appreciated how close he became with the Christian Heritage community.

“It’s been a good ride — a good 12 years,” he said.

Hall received the Brian Houston Award on Sunday, recognizing his service and integrity in memory of Houston, who taught Bible, history and math classes at Christian Heritage for 14 years. Houston died in a March 2006 motorcycle accident near Grand Junction.

School volunteer Brian Weerts also was recognized Sunday. Hall presented Weerts with the Ty Lockhart Award, for service enhancing the school, citing Weerts’ work with Christian Heritage’s annual Christmas programs.

Sunday’s commencement highlighted the closeness of the six graduates, but also their differences — and the importance of showing their individual characteristics to the world.

“Remember that you’ll be happiest when you act like yourself,” Berdine said in her salutatorian address.

Williams echoed that sentiment.

“Don’t deny anyone, especially yourselves, the chance to see what could happen if you decide to live to the best of yourselves,” Williams told her classmates. “Don’t be indifferent about what life has to offer — there’s so much.”

— To reach Mike Lawrence, call 970-871-4233 or email mlawrence@SteamboatToday.com

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