The time finally arrived. It was graduation day for the three members of the Seymour Christian Academy Class of 2015.

All Kelly Fleetwood, Abigail Criswell and Destiny Wilson had to do was walk into The Tabernacle’s sanctuary, make it through their senior song, “I Am Not Alone” by Kari Jobe, deliver speeches and walk up to receive their diplomas from Principal Aaron Arrowood.

Each made it through this past weekend’s commencement ceremony, but it wasn’t without some tears.

That especially was the case during the senior song, during which they closed their eyes and raised their hands, truly feeling the lyrics.

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“It was emotional for me,” Fleetwood said. “It wasn’t anything like practice. It was like the real deal, and I just feel like God was saying to me I’m not alone when I was singing that.”

Criswell said it finally hit that her high school years had come to a close.

“It kind of hits you in the face when you’re up there, and it’s like, ‘Oh my! Here we go,’” she said. “It went by really fast. Once it got started, it’s just sinking in.”

Wilson said she was apprehensive about performing, but her two classmates made it easier.

“They actually kind of made me do it,” she said, smiling. “At first, I didn’t want to do it because people make me nervous. But I was like, ‘I’m graduating. Why not?’ I’m glad I got to do it with those two. I’m glad they wanted me to do it with them. It was fun.”

With their black graduation gowns and caps, each girl had a yellow cord to represent being a Core 40 graduate (with grade-point averages between 3.8 and 4.2) and a blue National Honor Society stole. Fleetwood also had a white stole since she was valedictorian, and Criswell had one for being salutatorian.

Fleetwood and Criswell both attended the school from kindergarten through 12th grade.

“It is my church school, so I came here because of the beliefs and the principles taught in our school,” Fleetwood said. “It was always important to be surrounded by Christian people of the like faith.”

Criswell said her family was drawn to the church through friends, so she attended school there, too.

“Growing up, it was always very special to me because I was with people I knew and who knew me,” she said. “It was just the environment. I was loved, and it was incredible, and I loved it.”

Wilson attended Seymour-Redding Elementary School through fourth grade before transferring to Seymour Christian Academy.

“My mom is the day care cook, so she saw how things worked here, and mother knows best, so she thought, ‘I should bring my children here,’” she said. “It has been good.”

Through their middle school years, the girls had a few more classmates. But since ninth grade, it has just been the three of them.

“We had so much fun, and just being the three of us, I learned so much about them, and we could just really connect together instead of having a huge class,” Fleetwood said.

“I think that’s great we all got along. There never really was any drama or anything, which is awesome,” Wilson said.

“We’ve gotten to know each other very well, and we were always working together,” Criswell said. “When we were planning stuff, and even in clubs that we were in, we knew each other’s personalities. Not just at school do we hang out, but over the years, we’ve just become so close to where outside of school, we’re really good friends, best friends.”

Academics was important to each of them, too.

Fleetwood said going to a small school made learning a good experience.

“You have a smaller teacher-student ratio, so I’m free to go to my teachers,” she said. “I’m sure in public schools you can do that, as well. But for me, it’s easier, and I’m less intimidated to go to them. And I know them because of church, so it’s just easier to go and talk to them. They can understand us better, and there’s more direct teaching to us.”

Fleetwood said being valedictorian was a nice honor.

“It has been a journey,” she said, smiling. “I’m more of a perfectionist, and I’ve always wanted to make 100s, and I haven’t always done that at all. It has been rough. I’ve had my bad days, but I just pushed through, and this is really important to me.”

Criswell said making good grades didn’t always come easy to her, either, but she focused on working hard.

“Here at Seymour Christian Academy, the teachers know what the students want,” she said.

“Through the years, they get to know you as well as you know them, so if you’re struggling or if you aren’t good at something, even if they would need to teach you a certain way or change something so you understand, they are more than willing to do that, and it’s helpful.”

Wilson also lauded her teachers.

“I love the teachers to death,” she said. “I will ask them questions until they probably get annoyed with me, but they are understanding. They will answer my questions until I understand, and they really know how to teach and do that one-on-one. They were really great.”

Now, the three graduates are moving on to the real world. They each were accepted to several colleges and had scholarship offers.

Fleetwood is going into the surgical technician program at Ivy Tech Community College for two years and then will see where that takes her into the medical field.

“I’m just excited, and I’m so thankful for Seymour Christian Academy because I don’t think I would be where I am today if it wasn’t for Seymour Christian Academy,” she said.

Criswell is headed to the University of the Cumberlands in Williamsburg, Kentucky, to major in biology and specialize in surgery in hopes of becoming a physician assistant. She also is going to play volleyball, which all three girls did through high school.

Criswell said her goal is to take her degree internationally by doing foreign missions.

“I am just excited for the future,” she said.

“There’s just so much that I’m thankful for with this school, and the God-centered environment has changed my life. I’m just so thankful for that because I truly don’t know where I would be without the mentors that I had to guide me in the right direction or through school to help me along the way. My parents and my family, I’m just blessed.”

Wilson said she hopes to attend Franklin College but is undecided on a major.

“It’s very overwhelming and exciting and nerve-racking all at the same time,” she said.

“I really don’t know what to expect or how to feel right now, but I hope to be successful.”

Fleetwood file

Name: Kelly Marie Fleetwood

Age: 18

Hometown: Seymour

Residence: Seymour

School: Recent graduate of Seymour Christian Academy

Activities and accomplishments: Volleyball; drama club; music club; video production; National Honor Society; valedictorian; Core 40 graduate; student body president junior year

Plans: Surgical technician program at Ivy Tech Community College for two years and then continue studying in the medical field

Family: Parents, Kim and Curt Fleetwood; sisters, Mikayla Fleetwood and Stephanie Arthur

Criswell file

Name: Abigail Noelle Criswell

Age: 18

Hometown: Seymour

Residence: Brownstown

School: Recent graduate of Seymour Christian Academy

Activities and accomplishments: Volleyball; drama club; music club; National Honor Society; salutatorian; Core 40 graduate; student council; student body president senior year

Plans: Attend University of the Cumberlands to major in biology and specialize in surgery to become a physician assistant; also will play volleyball

Family: Parents, Dana Prieto and the late Richard Criswell; stepfather, Bobby Prieto; sister, Kara Criswell; stepsister, Victoria Prieto

Wilson file

Name: Destiny Dominique Wilson

Age: 18

Hometown: Sterling, Colorado

Residence: Seymour

School: Recent graduate of Seymour Christian Academy

Activities and accomplishments: Volleyball; drama club; National Honor Society; student council; Core 40 graduate

Plans: Attend Franklin College but undecided on a major

Family: Parents, David and Maria Wilson; siblings, Melody, Madison, Jennabelle and Cyrus Wilson and Syria and David Huertha

Author photo
Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.