Throughout the speeches and ceremonies of the graduation season, Randolph-Macon Academy’s 45 graduating seniors and eight Falcon Scholars were challenged to hold fast to their values. With 191 acceptances to 110 different colleges and universities, the class garnered over $5.1 million in college scholarships. In addition, all eight of the Falcon Scholars earned appointments to the U.S. Air Force Academy.
During the Baccalaureate Service on Thursday, May 16th, Chaplain Josh Orndorff had challenged the class with, “Remember who you are.” His words were a foreshadowing of the messages the graduating seniors would hear throughout the weekend.
During the graduation ceremony, valedictorian Noelle Kramer told her classmates, “If you don’t understand your goal now, that’s okay. That’s what the next years of your life are for. But be sure that while you seek to know your purpose, you never forget to understand yourself. Listen to what your own interests are, and know that a change of heart is never a failure.”
Noelle recounted the difficult personal time she had had during her second semester of her senior year. Her personal struggles impacted her studies tremendously; she stopped participating in class, left assignments undone, and subsequently risked all she had worked for. “I forgot who I was and why I wanted to achieve in the first place. I didn’t care about my schoolwork, my health, my friends… All I could manage to do when I got home was sleep or watch Netflix. Naturally, my grades suffered as a consequence,” she confessed. “After running for miles and miles with the wind at my heels, I tripped and fell when I was yards away from the finish line. But it was only through the love and support that I have found here at R-MA that I was able to pick myself off the ground and make my way across at the end.” Thanks to that and the fact that she did rally to finish the year well, R-MA’s Valedictorian will head off to MIT in the fall.
Guest speaker Gen Darren McDew, USAF, Retired, gave an engaging presentation that resonated with the students. Like Noelle, Gen McDew had researched speeches, and learned he should give the students a charge–and so he did. “My charge is simply, ‘Beware, decide, be,” he said. “Your story begins again today. You don't have to have it all figured out yet, but you've got to get to understand who you are now, and most importantly who you're not. And it's okay to play around on the edges of that. So beware of the tests. Most of you believe that your academic journey was where the tests were and where the test will be. I'm here to tell you those are the easy ones. They're the ones that most of the time are scheduled. They're the ones that you get a letter grade for. They're the ones that you can recover from. It's life's tests that are most damaging and challenging. Be careful and beware that they're coming. Someone will test your integrity. Someone will test your honor. Someone will test your core. Understand that test is coming and be ready for it. You've been given all the foundation and tools you need to deal with it.”
Gen McDew then told the story of his first sortie. As a newbie, he read the training manual to refresh himself the night before the flight. Because he was prepared, he did well, and the first block of his reputation was laid. From there, he continued to build his reputation by ensuring he was prepared.
“That’s why I say, ‘Decide.’ Decide who you are,” he explained to the soon-to-be graduates. “Not forever, but what’s in your core. Many people in the world, some of the people you admire, know what right looks like, but they can't live it. Decide today you're going to live it and then keep doing it. And the last part is ‘Be.’ Beware the test, decide who you want to be and then just be. And the ‘Be’ is ‘Be it every day.’ Be it when times are tough. Be it when it’s inconvenient. Every single day, be who you are at your core, and continue to get stronger.”
Woven throughout the weekend’s events were acknowledgements of the many successes of the school year, such as the Drill Team’s repeat state championship and the girls’ varsity soccer team championship. Also acknowledged was the fact that they were missing someone: the late Mr. Robert Davies, who had taught many of the graduates when they were freshmen and sophomores. Throughout the extreme ups and downs of the 2018-19 school year, the Class of 2019 bonded, and now, with a firm foundation, they move onto the next phase in life. For the eight Falcon Scholars, that is the US Air Force Academy. For one senior, that will mean enlisting in the military. The other 44 graduates will move onto colleges such as the The George Washington University, Penn State, Arizona State, Babson College, VMI, Virginia Tech, the U.S. Naval Academy, and other institutions.