The Andrews High School Class of 2019 is graduating with more than a diploma. For the second consecutive year, the graduating Yellow Jackets have received the blessing of a baccalaureate service.

Graduates and their guests filled the pews, aisles and the choir section at Trinity United Methodist Church in Andrews on June 2.

While many surrounding schools, including Georgetown High, have traditionally held a religious service for their graduates on a Sunday before the official graduation ceremony, Andrews had not. The impetus came from Dr. Paula Anderson when she arrived at AHS as assistant principal for the 2016-2017 school year. With careful planning and the help of the community, Anderson worked with school principal Dr. Michelle Greene to arrange a baccalaureate service the following school year at the Pentecostal Holiness Church for the Class of 2018.

“She told me that they had not had one during her administration; however, she did say we could try to get things together to have one for the 2017-2018 academic year, and we did. Therefore, the first one was done under Dr. Greene’s leadership last year,” said Anderson, who succeeded Greene upon her retirement in May of 2018. We had about 25 out of 144 graduates to participate last year.”

This year, Anderson said she was “very overwhelmed and excited with the participation." This year’s baccalaureate attendance more than quadrupled, requiring some quick-thinking graduates to solve the seating shortage by carrying their own folding chairs down the church aisles.

Teacher Franklin Shand, who has taught American Literature at Andrews for six years, was thrilled with the ceremony’s turnout this year.

“It sets them on the right path in life,” he said about the students.

Georgetown County Administrator Sel Hemingway served as Master of Ceremonies, welcoming students to the stage as they paid their respects to the flag, sang, read scripture, prayed, and gave testimonials.

Graduate Sully Hutto, who is a member of Trinity United Methodist, spoke on her faith. “I have been brought up in the church and have always learned about the Lord. I think that no matter the faith we think we have, there are always defining moments in our relationship with God.”

She spoke about “faith faults” and encouraged her peers “to embrace their weak spot” and to “let their weak spot be made strong” with God’s love. “Lean into Him in this next chapter and watch all that He can do. When you turn your faith fault over to Him, suddenly your ‘not enough’ is made enough,” Hutto said.

The school’s graduating NJROTC Commander, Jervonia Miller, joined voices with classmates Cornelius Elmore, Levona Bland, Kameron Johnson, Salaysia Nesmith, Shakayla Odom, Krystionna Pipkin, Jazmine Prior, and Christian Ward to perform “It’s Over Now” while standing at the church altar.

Hemingway took a moment to thank the parents and teachers before giving his “Charge for the Class of 2019.” He reminded the grads of all that their parents sacrificed for their accomplishment and encouraged them to follow their passion.

“Travel as much as you can; experience programs and internships before you join the real world of loan payments,” he advised. “Learn history. Learn the story of your family. Learn to be open to other ideas. Understand that everything has a price. Don’t settle for your second choice when you haven’t even tried your first.”

Senior Kamryn Evans said, “I think the service was really good and it was good to see so many of our class at the service.”

Cheerleader Shakayla Odom showed off her mortarboard with “She believed she could so she did” written in glitter. When asked what she would remember most about the day, she said, “Singing ‘It’s Over Now’ with my friends; I can't forget that.”

The AHS Graduation Ceremony is scheduled for Thursday, June 6, at 7 p.m. at Andrews High School.