Pilgrim Academy’s Class of 2012 salutatorian, Casey Mauger, first attended the Galloway Township school in first grade. Valedictorian Jaclyn Salayda didn’t arrive until high school.

Both said in their commencement speeches that the school has made a lasting impression on them and helped shape their character and faith.

In her speech, Mauger, of Little Egg Harbor Township, talked about the comfort she received at the school after her father died just before she started second grade.

“I realized that this place was different, that there was a special love here, a love that only true lovers of Christ could know and experience,” she wrote. She thanked her mother for her strength and support as “the most godly and determined woman that I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.”

She told her fellow graduates to remember their times together and “to keep others before yourself and God at your center.”

Salayda, of the West Creek section of Eagleswood Township, shared lessons she learned and challenges she faced as a “Pilgrim pioneer.”

She said she has sometimes needed to be reminded to trust in Jesus, but it was during the summer before her junior year that she finally found assurance of salvation.

“After many years of on-and-off doubting and fear, I finally found rest in the arms of the savior,” she wrote.

She said she struggles sometimes with what others think of her and how she can gain their approval, but she resolved after attending a leadership conference in November to start focusing on pleasing God alone.

“In each of the little, everyday decisions I make, I need to ask myself if what I am doing is for myself or for God,” she said.

She thanked her parents and staff members at the school who had an impact on her life. She challenged the graduates to recall the lessons they learned and apply them to their lives so that they might better serve Christ.

She ended by saying: “I pray that by looking back on what we have learned and applying those lessons to your lives as we look ahead, we would set an example for other believers and be a light in the world. In doing so we will bring glory to our beloved God.”

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