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Lifers’ Journeys Culminate on Graduation Day

June 16, 2021 by Elaine Rottman

Recess and RhetoricFirst Steps Lead to Final Steps

It’s possible that when Ava, Chloe, and Olivia marched to the triumphant yet mournful strains of Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 Opus 39” during the Providence School commencement ceremony on the first Friday of June the thoughts of at least one of the young women flashed back 16 years to the day they met in Room 1 of the El Montecito School (ELMO) preschool. That day marked the beginning of their Christian school education and their lives as classmates, teammates, and friends. 

Almost certainly, two other classmates, Erica and Christine, thought back to their first days of kindergarten—Erica at ELMO and Christine at Santa Barbara Christian School (SBCS).

These five young women in the Class of 2021 are affectionately known as “lifers.” They have experienced growing up in families committed to Christian education. All their formative years were spent in classes in the schools that have come together to form Providence School. In fact, it was in Miss Cunningham’s first-grade class at SBCS that Christine was inspired to become an elementary school teacher herself.

These five stand shoulder to shoulder with the other members of the Class of 2021, who, even though they began their educational journeys in other cities or other schools, have had the privilege of participating in a distinctly Christian education.

Did any of these students picture their graduation day on their first day of school? Not likely! They may have been wondering if the teacher would be nice, or if they had to finish their milk at snack time, or what would happen if they were unable to fall asleep during naptime.

But the parents….those souls now sitting in the audience, with pride and joy swelling in their chests as they hear the footsteps of their children approaching—those sweet children who look like strange grown people clad in their graduation gowns and caps, with mysterious cords, ribbons, and medals around their necks—those parents had glimpsed this day. It was exactly the end they had in mind when they made the choice for independent Christian education.  

“Lifers” deliver bouquets to their parents to thank them for the gift of Christian education.

And the faculty….they had this end in mind every single one of those long days that flew by in short years (even this past year of endless restrictions and missed milestones). They saw these graduates marching into a commencement ceremony and out into the world of college and beyond with every creatively designed grammar or mathematics lesson and every spelling test, book report, and thesis paper graded late at night. They saw these mature, confident young adults grow before their eyes in every spirited and spiritual discussion around a retreat campfire; in every conversation, silly or deep; and in every moment where a seeming defeat was turned into gracious victory.

We begin with the end in mind

We aim to develop Avas, Chloes, Olivias, Ericas, and Christines—as well as Valerias, Daniels, Belens, Joshuas, Sams, Zaks, Nolans, Jordans, and Pedros—who are critical and creative thinkers, able to collaborate to solve problems and make wise decisions, who are curious, emotionally intelligent, and resilient. These products of Christian education are eloquent scholars with literary acumen and technological savvy; they are compassionate individuals equipped with the emotional intelligence and spiritual disciplines to form friendships, steward resources, and lead healthy, productive lives. 

The end is a new beginning

The Class of 2021’s educational journey began with the end in mind. And now, as they reach the end of this part of the journey, they begin anew: at TCU, UC Berkeley, Seattle Pacific, Pepperdine, Westmont, Franciscan University of Steubenville, the University of Oregon, the University of San Francisco, and Santa Barbara City College. 

We ask God’s blessing on the “lifers” and all the members of the Class of 2021 as they take their next steps, prepared for lives of purpose, equipped with the knowledge, wisdom, and character found in God’s unchanging truth.

WATCH: Providence School Class of 2021 Graduation Ceremony

READ MORE:  A Blueprint for a Distinctly Christian Education by Soo Chang

LEARN MORE: For more information on how the distinctly Christian education at Providence School begins with the end in mind, visit the Providence School website.


Elaine Rottman, director of strategic communications, is the Recess and Rhetoric blog editor. She has worked in school communications, marketing, and development since 1981. She joined Providence School in 2010, where her husband, Bruce Rottman, has taught in the Upper School since 2009. They are the parents of two grown children who were educated in Christian and independent schools. One of her favorite roles is sending the graduates down the aisle on Commencement Day.


Photos by Corban Banez and Caleb Jones, Providence Class of 2017

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