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Lighthouse Preparatory Academy celebrates its graduates

by Joe Gamm | May 14, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.
The memories of each senior were on display at Lighthouse Preperatory Acadamy Saturday as the families of the seniors gathered ahead of their Sunday graduation to celebrate their accomplishments. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)

Lighthouse Preparatory Academy hosted its annual graduation celebration Saturday afternoon.

The graduation ceremony for its 14 seniors is 2 p.m. today in the Missouri State Capitol rotunda.

The celebration featured an arrival parade for the seniors. Within the school's gymnasium, displays highlighting graduates' activities over the years lined the walls. The celebration was coordinated by juniors, who will be the subjects of the displays next year.

Families of graduating students filled the school's gymnasium to hear stories about the students and to watch slideshows depicting each senior as they grew.

"It's just a fun way to celebrate our seniors," said Jenni Cecil, a Lighthouse Academy parent and volunteer. "It's a tradition here at Lighthouse. We've got a parade that we're doing. They'll get to drive through and be loved on."

Cecil said seniors each had his or her own table, where they would sit with family and friends.

Monique Begley, who will be school administrator next year, said the number of graduating students at the Christian school fluctuates each year, but generally remains around 20.

"Our mission is to strengthen families by partnering with parents to develop these witnesses for Christ through academic excellence and character development," Begley said. "We want to strengthen families and raise these kids up in the Lord to go on and follow whatever God has for them in the future."

The students come from public schools, other Christian schools and home schooling, she said. They desire the university model -- with three days a week in-seat and two days a week at home in a satellite classroom. It allows parents to have a lot of time with their children at home.

The celebration is an opportunity for the junior class to build character through servant leadership, she continued.

"We can celebrate -- not just the seniors -- but the people who God has placed in their lives to help get them to this point where they are graduating," Begley said.

As the event began, Begley told listeners the school was excited to celebrate the students with their families.

"We celebrate the achievements they have made, but also the dreams they are pursuing," she said.

Begley added the event was also a celebration of the people in the students' lives who have played roles in their development.

"Having gotten to know these seniors this past year, I have realized how hard-working, determined and goal-oriented they truly are," she said. "It excites me to see what they will accomplish in the future."

At the same time, it is sad to see them move on, she said. Begley said it was difficult to imagine what it's like for parents who have spent about 18 years raising the students, then watching them graduate and walk across a stage Sunday.

Bryce Koelling, the father of senior Avery Samuel Koelling, said he and his wife Zoe sent all four of their children to Lighthouse Preparatory Academy.

He said their oldest children, both girls, started at the school during their ninth-grade years. That was several years ago, when the academy was held at Columbia College, he said.

Their two boys started in sixth grade.

The children's elementary years were spent at Kingdom Christian Academy in Fulton, Koelling said.

"We wanted to continue with a Christian-based school," Koelling said, "that partnered with families, where we felt our kids could get a solid education with the curriculum that we could approve."

  photo  Dr. Bryce and Zoe Koelling pose with their children, all of whom are Lighthouse Prep graduates, Emma (2016), Elle (2018), Avery (2023), and Aden (2022). (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)
  photo  The families of Lighthouse Preparatory Academy seniors gathered Saturday to celebrate their accomplishments. Commencement ceremonies will be Sunday afternoon at the Capitol. (Ken Barnes/News Tribune)

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