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Valedictorians challenge Florence Christian grads

May 25, 2019

FLORENCE, S.C. – The 2019 senior class of Florence Christian School featured co-valedictorians Natalie Dehlinger and Janalyn Berry.

Dehlinger and Berry graduated from the school with a 5.18 grade-point average Friday evening at the school’s 41st commencement ceremony.

For college preparatory schools, South Carolina operates on a 5.0 GPA scale. However, taking college credit courses can result in a higher GPA.

Both valedictorians issued challenges to the 47 graduates walking across the stage.

Dehlinger challenged her classmates to be kind.

“I just want you guys to know I wish you all the best of luck and happiness in every chapter of your life as it goes on,” Dehlinger said. “Lastly, I want to leave everyone with a bit of a challenge. In my 14 years of being here, 18 of being alive, I obviously disagreed with or been upset with friends, peers, family, teachers, and, honestly, anyone. I could find myself being really bitter over these disagreements and not wanting to be kind to the opposite party.”

She looked to John 13:34-35 in which the apostle John quotes Jesus saying, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Dehlinger plans to attend the University of South Carolina, where she will study criminology and criminal law with a minor in theater.

“I’m sure we all know in our hearts that it’s right to love each other and be kind but it is so much easier to be said than done,” Dehlinger said. “So I challenge all of you, alongside myself, to be kind to everyone, no matter their age, their skin color, or what they’ve done to you because God says that’s how men should be able to tell that we’re Christians.”

Berry, the daughter of Principal James C. “Jim” Berry, issued a three-part challenge that she heard her granddad tell her father.

First, she asked her classmates to invest in things that “money can’t buy.”

“We need to invest more in things that will matter after our life,” Berry said. “One thing I will remember about Mr. Miles’s math classes probably won’t be how to use the quadratic formula or the difference between sine and co-sine but it will be the way he ended all of his classes with a quote, ‘Live for the Eternal more than Temple.’”

Second, she asked classmates to pay attention to detail. She said details were the difference between mediocrity and greatness.

Last, her advice was simple: “Don’t quit.”

Berry plans to attend Bob Jones University, where she will major in music education.

The 2019 Florence Christian Senior class features four Palmetto Fellows Scholarship qualifiers ($6,700 per year) and 25 South Carolina Life Scholarship qualifiers ($5,000).

The school did not provide scholarship numbers for the entire class, but 25% of the class has received $1.5 million in scholarships.

Athletically, the 2019 class won five SCISA region championships, a state championships, 21 all-region team members, and four have been named to all-state teams. Three students have won athletic scholarships to attend college.

On the stage, 20 class members have won gold medals in the choir, three have been all-state choir members, three have been named all-state instrumentalists, and two went to Carnegie Hall to perform. Also, two students won debate state championships.

Thirty-three members of the class will enroll in college with credits.

Of the 47 members, 26 have been in the school since kindergarten or earlier. Four of the 26 enrolled for kindergarten and five have been enrolled since 4K, meaning 17 members of the class have been enrolled since they were 3 years old.

Florence Christian School started in 1972 as a ministry of the Florence Baptist Temple. The school started with 54 students in grades K-3. In 1979, 16 students became the first graduates of the school. Currently, the school serves 600 students from K3 to 12th grade.

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