On Friday evening, Wings Christian Academy, based in Kenai’s Immanuel Baptist Church, held a graduation ceremony for Tyler Ophus, its sole departing senior.
The ceremony opened with pledges to the Bible and to the American and Christian flags, and a scripture reading from Song of Solomon. Following hymn-singing and a slide presentation, Ophus gave a speech to the audience. After thanking God for his education, Ophus thanked his mother for withdrawing him from public school after first grade, and for home-schooling him until sixth grade before enrolling him at Wings Christian Academy.
“Growing up away from this world of wickedness and being raised in a Christian home is huge,” Ophus said. “If it weren’t for that, I could have gotten into the kinds of things I shouldn’t have been doing, and I’m extremely thankful to be given a chance to not be part of this world.”
To the remaining 21 students of Wings, Ophus spoke of the importance of seeking academic assistance from God.
“But that does not mean you don’t have to study,” Ophus said. “School can get hard sometimes, but you just have to preserve through those times, and don’t let school get you down. As hard it can be, always try your best to study as hard as you can, even if you have stay up until 2:00 in the morning, so be it. If you want to pass that test and actually learn something, it’s just something you have to do.”
Wings Christian Academy teacher and administrator Georgia James said that Wings uses a curriculum called Accelerated Christian Education, in which students complete units called PACEs (Packets of Accelerated Christian Education) in the core subjects of English, math, science, social studies, and Biblical studies. James estimated that Ophus had completed around 300 PACEs during his time at Wings. She said the small student body, ranging from elementary kids to students who will be juniors next year, interacts like a family.
“Tyler’s actually really shy,” James said. “But because we’re a very small school, because they see the same kids year after year, they grow up as a family. They are almost like siblings.”
Alongside the 21 students, Wings has five teachers. In this small group, James said that students have additional responsibilities outside the classroom, and that Ophus was active in carrying out these responsibilities.
“He does everything,” James said. “He runs errands. We have water-tanks for the school drinking water, and he will deliver those for us. We are such a small school, and if it needs to be done, Tyler does it.”
James said that older students like Ophus are leaders for the younger students.
“If one of (the younger kids) is feeling down, he’ll go out of his way to make sure they’re alright,” James said. “If we need a recess monitor — because we are very short-staffed — he will take them outside and make sure they’re not running off into the forest and there’s no moose around.”
Ophus coached Wings’ volleyball team, as well as a basketball team at the Boys and Girls Club of Kenai. As the only senior, he also had the privilege of choosing the school’s yearly theme. This year’s theme was Spiderman. Before the presentation of Ophus’ diploma, former Wings teacher and administrator Mark Ruffridge gave a sermon based on a quote from Spiderman’s Uncle Ben: “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Ophus said that he hopes to work in a career related to sports or children. He was awarded a scholarship from the University of Alaska, but is also considering moving with his mother to Montana.
Reach Ben Boettger at email@example.com.