Passing the torch, at RCHS’ Baccalaureate

Valedictorian Bryn Sonnett addresses the Baccalaureate crowd.Shelby Burnett
Valedictorian Bryn Sonnett addresses the Baccalaureate crowd.

On a warm Sunday evening (June 3), Rappahannock County High School seniors donned their caps and gowns for their first formal farewell ceremony – the 62nd annual Baccalaureate service.

The moving evening is a tradition designed to honor the graduating class in a faith-based service filled with oration, music, and a meaningful candlelight service where the seniors pass the candle of faith and friendship to their underclassmen of choice.

Master of ceremony, Pastor Jeffrey Light, welcomed the crowd as the RCHS Visible Christian Club community sponsor. Following his remarks, an impressive parade of adults and students ascended to the podium in a series of memorable speeches.

In a courageous address to the class of 2012, Dave Naser, RCHS science teacher, encouraged the students with stories of his personal tragedies and the victories that ensued.

From left: Amber Dodson, Caitlin Humbles, Bryn Sonnett and Shelby Burnett.Amy Burnett
From left: Amber Dodson, Caitlin Humbles, Bryn Sonnett and Shelby Burnett.

School Board president, John Lesinski, shared the ancient history of the baccalaureate along with words of wisdom. His fellow board member, Aline Johnson, followed by presenting her own original, and very moving, poetry to the upperclassmen.

After the adults delivered their words, the RCHS Wind Ensemble, directed by junior Lauren Light, offered J.S. Bach selections to set the tone of the evening.

The first student-leader, K.T. Milam, spoke to his peers about his personal relationship with Jesus Christ and how that has impacted his life. Milam represented the RCHS Visible Christian Club.

Cullen McCarthy, president of the senior class, followed by directing her commentary mostly to the underclassmen. She offered excellent advice and wisdom to the future seniors and provoked her classmates to tears.

Co-presidents of the Student Council Association, Candace Rutherford and Adam Carter, tag teamed to both address the candle recipients and their peers. With laughter and some very mature observations about life, they moved their audience and provoked applause.

Bryn Sonnett, class valedictorian, and salutatorian Tessa Crews each spoke to the assembly about different types of faith, their gratefulness for the family of RCHS, and their hopes for the legacy the younger people are tasked with creating.

Following the student orators, juniors Kelsa Settle (vocalist) and Lauren Light (acoustic guitar) evoked much emotion with their performance of the Jake Hamilton song “Hallelujah” that they dedicated to the graduates.

Father Murphy of St. Peter Catholic Church presented the homily of the ceremony. His real-world analogies drew applicable wisdom from the Holy Bible and offered the graduates deeply provoking lessons to take away from RCHS. His participation in the evening was a special honor to his graduate-parishioner, Haley Hogan and her family.

Pastor Jeffrey Light, master of ceremony at Sunday’s 62nd annual Baccalaureate at Rappahannock County High School, welcomes the crowd.Shelby Burnett
Pastor Jeffrey Light, master of ceremony at Sunday’s 62nd annual Baccalaureate at Rappahannock County High School, welcomes the crowd.

RCHS alumna and Virginia Tech student, Taylor Light was the baccalaureate pianist. She led the attendees in a congregational hymn to open the candlelight ceremony. Her performance led into some touching remarks by principal Rowdy Stump and assistant principal Andy Hipple who subsequently lit the source candles as the seniors filed in to receive their light. Graduates met their selected underclassmen in front of the stage to pass their faith and friendship flame. The partners then proceeded up the aisle to line the wall and light the darkened auditorium.

To celebrate the ceremony, the Amissville Homemakers Club treated the crowd to a dessert and punch reception in the RCHS commons where attendees and graduates greeted each other with embraces, tears, laughter and many photogenic poses.