Garrett Memorial graduates ten in heartfelt ceremony Saturday night
The ten 2024 graduates from Garrett Memorial Christian School were ushered out into the adult world in a ceremony at the Hempstead Hall auditorium that was rich in reminiscences and provided a vivid sense of what makes the school unique. 

The ceremony began with the introduction of each graduate by GMCS Administrator Christi Zumwalt who stood at a podium on stage where she read each graduate’s name, the names of their parents and their future plans. Each graduate, in bright red academic gowns, mortars and tassels, walked up the rightward extensions of the stage past an assembled group of staffers , standing in front of chairs on the right side of the podium and walked across to take their places at chairs on the stage’s left side. 

·       Evan Paige Chambless “plans to attend Southern Arkansas University in the fall and major in Diagnostic Medical Sonography.” 

·       Harleigh Brooke Cox “plans to attend the University of Arkansas-Hope Texarkana in the fall and major in Nursing.” 

·       Tyler William Crane “plans to attend the University of Arkansas-Hope Texarkana and major in Technical Studies.” 

·       Mikayla Marie Fields’ “plan is to enter Southern Arkansas University and major in Exercise Science.” 

·       Lane Dylan Fleming “plans to attend the University of Arkansas-Hope Texarkana and major in Business.” 

·       Bailey Madison Hayes “plans to attend Southern Arkansas University and major in Pre-veterinary Medicine 

·       Daniel Logan Lauterbach “plans to enlist in the very near future in the Marines.” 

·       Laikyn Grace Mitchell “plans to attend the University of Arkansas-Hope Texarkana and major in Nursing.” 

·       Shelby Grace Ratcliff “plans to attend Southern Arkansas University and major in Nursing.” 

·       Charity Renee Zumwalt “plans to go to the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana and then later to Central Baptist College in Conway to major in Kinesiology.” 

After this, Madison Faulkner, 2024-25 Student Council President gave the invocation.

As everyone took their seats, Administrator’s Comments followed. Zumwalt introduced those on the stage representing GMCS. They included Faulkner, 2024-25 Student Council Vice President Bailey Hogue, Math Teacher Tami Orr, School Board President Robert Parker, School Board members Landon Davis, Sallie Nix and Becky Butler. She also asked for GMCS’ teachers from past and present to stand and be recognized. 

Then she asked parents of GMCS 2024 graduates to stand, saying, “Congratulations to all of you. It's bittersweet to see your baby boy or girl and getting to this next stage of life. Trust me. I'm right there with you. But what a joy it is to know they have received a good foundation for life, founded on God’s word as they studied during this time at GMCS. Thank you for entrusting your children into our care for the last 14 years or one year or somewhere in the middle of that.” 

Then, turning to the soon-to-be-graduates, she told of teaching Bible classes and fifth and sixth grade classes to several of the seniors before assuming the Administrator job she has currently. 

“I will never forget the fun we had, the things that we learned together. I have great memories of our time together. A lot of you spent the night at our house, gone to birthday parties, you cried on my shoulder, you sat on a couch, you laid on my couch in my office. … I know in the sovereignty of God, He has great things ahead for you. And I just pray that you will allow Him to continue to guide you to mold your abilities down the right path,” Zumwalt said. 

She then introduced Tami Orr, who was selected by the seniors to make the senior charge. The Saints Singers provided a rendition of “In Christ Alone/”The Solid Rock” before Orr spoke. 

Orr said being chosen to give the speech was an honor but, “I really think they chose me because I make them cookies every week.”  First, Orr thanked the seniors’ parents for allowing the GMCS faculty to act as more than just teachers but as counselors and sounding boards during their time growing up. “Graduates, I’m so very proud of each one of you and believe it or not, I’ll miss you more than you’ll ever know,” she said and provided a few life tips. Orr then introduced, as a surprise, a five-minute video, shown on a screen that had lowered before her speech, of about half a dozen teachers and staff sharing their memories of the 2024 seniors. 

Next, Zumwalt awarded the special medal for attendance of GCMS from pre-K to 12th grade to Evan Chambless, Tyler Crane, Bailey Hayes and Shelby Ratcliff.  

Scholarship presentations were then made personally to each senior by representatives of corporate donors, bringing the total scholarship amount earned to $189,000 and counting for the class of 2024. Among the donors represented were the Junior Auxiliary of Hope, Farm Bureau, the Hope Lions Club, Pafford Healthcare, Southern Arkansas University and the Parker Cooper Family in memorial to their son who passed away two and a half years ago. 

Then, providing a report on the senior trip, Mikayla Fields described an adventure in travelling to Orlando that involved a surprising airport pat down, swimming with dolphins, sampling the fare at restaurants, seeing a movie, driving over an open manhole in a median, a shoe-throwing and a lot of other fun that frequently set the audience tittering. The seniors also got a sense of what certain jobs were like, including bussing tables. 

Next were speeches by the valedictorian and salutatorian. Valedictorian Bailey Hayes offered advice to her fellow graduates-to-be. “It is easy to reminisce about countless good memories, but it is important to acknowledge that our journey hasn't been without its challenges or moments that test our patience. We have learned that through God all things are possible. In stepping into the unknown let’s trust in his way for our lives and lean on his strength to guide us,” she said. 

Salutatorian Shelby Ratcliff observed that at Garrett, “we are more than students and teachers, we are family," and in closing said, “Now it's down to that lead question that we've been asked over and over and over. What do you do after high school? Some of us have a clear plan and some of that will change and that's okay. There's nothing wrong with not knowing the answer to the rest of our lives today.” She cited Philippians 4:13 and Luke 1:37 as giving her strength to make the right choices and congratulated the other members of the senior class. 

The ceremony paused here as a slide show consisting of seniors’ photos from over the years was projected onto the front screen. As songs like Miley Cyrus’ “Wherever I Go” and Carrie Underwood’s “Don’t Forget to Remember Me” played, seniors presented flowers to their parents and loved ones. 

The presentation of diplomas followed, with all the seniors' names being called out by Zumwalt as Robert Parker handed out the prized documents in red covers. Zumwalt announced that the seniors could move their tassels. 

Baylee Pogue gave the benediction and the seniors threw their caps, then adjourned to the Blevins Room where tables were creatively festooned with pictures and memorabilia of each senior’s life up to now.  There the seniors rejoined their families.