EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - The 39 members of Atlantic Christian High School Class of 2013 graduated Thursday from the school and classmates they have known for years.
But the close-knit group shared their love for one another and reminded one another to keep their strong Christian faith as they depart into the world.
Salutatorian Jordan Scheidegg, of Egg Harbor Township, said the students have fostered their strong faith in God at the Christian K-12 school on Zion Road but now will enter schools and jobs that are not centered on the same values as the school.
"It is hard to believe we are now considered adults, but we have work to do," said the 17-year-old who will enroll at The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in the fall. "We must live a life that reflects the life, beliefs and all we learned at Atlantic Christian."
The small class, which was dressed in green and white robes for the ceremony, has become a family over the years, she said.
"It's really tough. I don't want to go," she said. "We're all so close."
An emotional Hannah Schalles, 17, of Ocean City, gave a tearful valedictorian speech in which she told the class she loved them all.
Schalles, who will attend Cedarville University in Ohio, encouraged her classmates to continue to be leaders and preach their Christian values throughout the world.
"We need to keep learning and growing. At no point should anyone say they've learned enough," she said. "In post graduation we'll have more freedom than we had as high schoolers. And with that freedom comes responsibility, and we will be held accountable for knowing what we do know about God."
Chief School Administrator Karen Newman said the class was well-prepared for their next step.
"It's a time to let go and spread your wings and fly," she said. "But come back here. We want to hear what God is doing with you in your future."
Contact Joel Landau:
Follow Joel Landau on Twitter @landaupressofac