Christian Heritage students take leap of faith |

Christian Heritage students take leap of faith

7 seniors graduate Sunday

Victoria Belz prepares to jump off a balcony and slide into her graduation ceremony Sunday at Christian Heritage School in Steamboat Springs. The school's seven seniors rappelled into the ceremony.

— Every high school senior class strives to offer something distinctive at its graduation ceremony as a way to explain itself, to sum up four years of classes, pranks, memories and jokes.

Amid a month overflowing with newborn-to-senior photo presentations and silly string showers, the seven seniors at Steamboat Springs' Christian Heritage School — who chose to use that name for graduation rather than the school's new moniker, Heritage Christian School — might have found a truly unique way to not only tell their story Sunday, but show a packed auditorium on the school's campus exactly what they have in mind for the future.

Oh, there still was "Pomp and Circumstance," but it played as the seniors rappelled in from a balcony and marched to their seats, the audience greeting the acrobatic arrival with loud applause.

"We're still wearing harnesses," salutatorian Emily Heiner said after the ceremony, smiling wide.

She continued as she exchanged hugs and absorbed well wishes from a long line of friends and family.

"It was great," she said. "My class, we're kind of crazy. We've always been outgoing and we wanted to do something different."

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The school's senior class could fit in a minivan, but on Sunday, the congratulations were overflowing.

Heiner, Melodie Houston, Aimee Lotz, Victoria Belz, Eric Spahr, Kevin Finch and Matthew Jones were saluted by a collection of speakers.

Keynote speaker Rob Meeker, a bible teacher with the school, offered the group a series of tips. He implored the seniors to follow their hearts, to choose joy, to not take themselves too seriously, to have and be a mentor and to have and maintain a clean slate before they leave for the next chapter of their lives.

"Don't leave this valley without having a clear conscience," he said.

The top members of the class got the chance to answer back with their own speeches.

Heiner basked in all she was able to take from her schooling, everything from the friends to the classes to the experiences gained on a mission trip to Africa.

"Each of us entered this building as a family. Let us not forget what a gift that is," she said. "Let's make the most of what we've been given.

Jones, the valedictorian, compared one's personality to a sailing ship's figurehead. He said the school, as well as friends and family, helped each student create his or her own figurehead, and he said it was essential that he and his classmates take the seas with that uniquely formed personality.

"We cannot sit in the harbor, afraid of the sea," he said. "To do that would be to live a life without meaning."

Between the speeches, the handing out of diplomas and one of those video tributes, the ceremony stretched 90 minutes, but it all was summed up in the first five, and from one of the first speakers, Sk8 Church founder Buck Chavarria.

Chavarria spoke about a verse the class selected, Hebrews 6:19a: "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

On Sunday, seven students stepped off into the world shortly after they had stepped off the ledge of a balcony and rappelled into the auditorium, Christian Heritage acting literally and figuratively as their anchor.

"You guys stepped off that ledge and you have faith in that anchor," Chavarria said.

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email

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