Education

Graduating Bradenton Christian senior speaks from his heart

MANATEE -- The young man selected by his senior peers to give the class speech Friday at Bradenton Christian School's 2015 graduation could have fallen back on cliches and a string of funny stories.

Trent Christman could have told the crowd of 1,200 at Bayside Community Church on State Road 64: "Our futures are in our own hands" or "It's up to us now to write our histories."

Christman instead told parents, teachers, staff and 46 fellow graduates God is in control. He used the word "amazing" about a dozen times to explain the way he felt about God, who really began to work in his life when he transferred to BCS from public school three years ago.

"If things go wrong, BCS has given us all the tools we need," Christman said. "I encourage you all to stay close to God. Stay by His side and He will be faithful."

Christman, an offensive lineman on the Panther football team headed to Southeastern in Lakeland to become a physical therapist, said God will be there for everyone if they hit a rocky patch.

"I find it amazing we have a Bible class at BCS," Christman said. "Public school does not have Bible class. But here, we can go on spiritual retreats. We have the freedom to openly talk about God and that is cool."

He was not embarrassed to say he had grown extremely close to everyone of his classmates.

"I have one sister but I feel like I have 46 brothers and sisters," he said.

He thanked his parents and teachers for the sacrifices they made for he and his fellow grads.

"Amazing" he said one final time, and shook his head thinking about parents and teachers.

Best friends since kindergarten

Ellie Denison, 18, and Savannah

"Sunshine" Shontere, 18, graduated after having been BCS friends since kindergarten.

"Lots of giggling at sleepovers," Mary Denison remembered about her daughter and Shontere.

Now the pair are heading off to college in different parts of the nation.

"Ellie is willing to listen and accepts you the way you are," Shontere said.

Denison doesn't enjoy thinking about daily life without Sunshine.

"Lots of Face time," Denison said with a smile.

Denison is heading to the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Her brother, Zach Dennison, 24, has just been transferred to Jacksonville in the U.S. Navy and brother and sister will be just five minutes apart.

"It's exciting that he and his wife, Keri, will be there," Denison said.

Denison plans to study psychology and one day work in human resources for a corporation.

Shontere, who will study to be a nurse at Liberty University in Virginia, is famous at BCS for her smile and personality.

"She's super outgoing and smiles at strangers," Shontere's mother, Kirsten Shontere, said of her daughter.

Kirsten Shontere said she gave her daughter the middle name, "Sunshine" to give her a shot in life in case she was naturally grumpy. It turned out she is the polar opposite of grumpy.

"I know there is more to life than to just live it for yourself," Sunshine said when asked why she is so nice to people.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.

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