Seniors graduate as part of first Hillcrest Academy class

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Hillcrest Academy celebrated its first graduating class on Sunday. The school changed its name from Iowa Mennonite School prior to the start of the 2019-20 school year.

Eighteen members of the Class of 2020 received their diplomas in the school’s Celebration Hall.

David Heusinkveld, pastor at West Union Mennonite Church, gave a commencement address titled “Look Around.”

Heusinkveld recalled how he could remember nothing of the content of the commencement address from his own high school graduation in 1976.

“You don’t have to remember what I say; it’s not that important,” he told the seniors. “What I do hope you remember is this moment, this graduation ceremony. Remember this space that you’re in.”

He said that what is important is the people, including classmates, family and teachers.

“Remember the names of your classmates,” Heusinkveld said. “Remember their faces. Remember what they’re like as people. Remember the things you did with them.

“What is important is not what I say. What is important is this moment of your graduation and those who have been important to your life here in school.”

Seniors Sarena Graber, Yuli Montes de Oca and Martin Vaca each gave brief student addresses.

Graber reflected on how she has changed over her years at Hillcrest.

“I know for a fact that every single one of you guys – my classmates – are not the same person that we were before we came to IMS,” Graber said. “These past few years have shaped us into who we are right now.”

Montes de Oca talked about her personal growth.

“Throughout the years, my mindset has changed, and I’ve grown mentally and physically,” she said. “I think about the internal struggles I had each year and how I’ve grown from them. Being at Hillcrest has given me time to grow into the person I am today and will continue to grow.”

Vaca said he was thankful for his experience at Hillcrest.

“The soulful environment of Hillcrest helped me create relationships with students and faculty that I never would have had with those people,” he said. “Even though our class has different views on different topics, we all seem to be able to come together and still have fun.”

Principal Dwight Gingerich announced that Jesse Slater was named valedictorian and Mia Graber was named salutatorian.

Graber presented the class gift, a donation toward the repainting and refinishing of the gym floor.

Flowers and candles were on display in memory of Teresa Cardenas, a member of the Class of 2020, who died in an accident at the school in December 2017.

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