Commencement 2016: Celebrating God’s Faithfulness

On May 26, 2016, fourteen graduating seniors stood on stage at Covenant Christian Academy’s Commencement Ceremony while the auditorium filled with the lyrics of the ancient hymn “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

At a time when most students are told again and again that the world is their oyster and that they can do anything, Covenant chose to celebrate the achievement of their graduating seniors by praising God for his faithfulness to the school and the families within it. Headmaster Dr. David Sonju recognized the faithfulness of God in giving them such a tight knit and supportive community.

“One of the great joys of this school is that you’ll leave this stage and enter into the alumni community,” said Sonju. “We pray for many more years of God’s faithfulness to this academy.”

Valedictorian Allison Good and Salutatorian Azra Dees both spoke about the community and faithfulness they experienced during their time at Covenant. “There is always a plan for us,” said Dees. “We only have to go. I pray that along the way, we never forget each other and the time we spent here together. I pray that we never forget that we are loved.”

Good echoed that sentiment in her speech. “What is truly beautiful about this school is…the experience of being part of a people that fill these halls, who ultimately create the identity of Covenant Christian Academy. As a member of the since-kindergarten club, after thirteen years, I can attest to what we’ve experienced growing up at Covenant, what we’ve experienced as fully integrated members of a community.”

In the fall, Allison Good will attend Ohio State University to study Biomedical Engineering. Azra Dees will attend Rutgers University to study Molecular Biology.

Mr. Gordon Zubrod, J.D., delivered the commencement speech. Zubrod worked as an Assistant United States Attorney for thirty-five years. He served in his last assignment as Senior Litigation Counsel for the Department of Justice, a career which has taken him to Romania, Malaysia, Uzbekistan, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. He worked against organized crime, political corruption, and human trafficking. Zubrod has close ties with Covenant Christian Academy. His son-in-law Chris Perrin is the founder of the school and three of his grandchildren graduated from Covenant. Next year Zubrod will be teaching a Mock Trial Elective at Covenant.

Zubrod’s speech also reflected on the faithfulness of God in the lives of these graduating students. “Way to go,” Zubrod congratulated the seniors. “God’s been faithful, and so have you, and tonight is the harvest you reap. Well done.”

Zubrod drew from extensive experience in his own life to encourage the graduates to carry well the tools they have been given. He spoke about pursuing truth and justice in a world that is so often filled with the lack of it. “I’ve seen witnesses willing to die for the truth … and defendants who would kill them without a conscience. I have seen, and prosecuted, policemen, judges, and high ranking, elected, public officials who sold themselves to the highest bidder. The core of my labors has involved the assessment of character.” Zubrod said the assessment of character has been his life’s journey—and will be for the graduates as well. Zubrod argued that Christians can look at the world in a different way, knowing the ending has already been written. The graduates, he said, must choose to live and work as a labor of love.

For them to achieve success in life, Zubrod charged them to play more, develop a love for truth, pay attention to detail, do hard things, and build their lives around the legacy they’ll leave behind. “You are the heirs of a classical tradition, learned through a rich theological culture,” he said. “This journey is really just beginning.”

The fourteen graduating seniors were then presented their diplomas by Dr. David Sonju, Headmaster; Mrs. Kristen Miller, Upper School Dean; Mr. Greg Lowe, President, Board of Directors; and Mrs. Emily Dixon, Guidance Coordinator. Current Covenant students lined each side of the auditorium, cheering on their older classmates. Each student of the graduating cohort was then prayed over by Dr. Matthew Hunter, Upper School Humanities Teacher.

Perhaps the best example of God’s faithfulness to these students was seen in what wasn’t said: the smiles, the proud parents snapping pictures, the high fives, the excitement on each graduate’s face. All fourteen graduates have been shepherded and encouraged by caring parents, teachers, and staff members. Though they are pursuing a wide variety of careers—design, social work, military service, and nursing, among others—they each leave Covenant as confident, optimistic young men and women who, because of the care, guidance, and education they have received, may truly change the world.

Commencement 2016 Scenes

About the Author

Rachael Dymski is a freelance writer and blogger living in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania. Her work has appeared in places like Relevant Magazine, Humane Pursuits, Patheos, The Burg, Healthy Leaders, and her personal blog She is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of The Crawl Space Journal, a literary journal for readers and writers of Young Adult Fiction.

Senior Thesis 2016

Hello. My name is Allie Good, and I am a senior. I’d like to invite you to an annual special event for Covenant Christian Academy, Senior Thesis. I’ve attended Covenant since kindergarten, and for the past thirteen years, I have seen and heard about this daunting task each senior faces. The thesis is a year-long research project culminating in a public speech and defense before the entire Upper School student body – along with parents, guests, and an intimidating panel of school board members.

As I approached my senior year, I must admit that I was nervous to uptake such a momentous assignment. The process took all year and a great deal of effort. However, I knew I was prepared, not only because I had experienced thesis teachers, but because of all I have been given leading up to this year. Senior Thesis represents the focus Covenant places on writing and rhetorical skills, but it also shows the commitment and years of work our teachers have poured into their students since kindergarten. They have each guided, molded, and prepared us to attack Senior Thesis with experience and confidence, and we are excited to share what we have learned.

Covenant’s senior class of 2016 will be presenting their theses on Tuesday, May 17th and Thursday, May 19th in the Edger and Elizabeth Dunlap Center starting at 8:30am. In addition, three students will also be presenting at Messiah College at 7pm on May 23rd.

Tuesday May 17th

Thursday May 19th


Allie – Pursuing Canine Communication


Natalie – For Sale By Owner


Monica – Tiger Mom


Tim – Seeking Change: A Biblical Approach to Money

9:35-9:55                       break 9:35-9:55                        break

Joseph – Taxed to Death: The American Way


Matt – Reducing Internal Police Stress


Azra – Know Your Stuff: The Basics of HIPPA


Wesley – Money Behind Bars


Gary – Does Marketing Kill Creativity?


Albert  – Death with Dignity

11:45-12:45                   lunch 11:45-12:45                    lunch

Sophia – Loneliness in a Connected World


Molly – Calling All Customers


Kyle – NCAA: Dropping the Ball on College Athletes


Colsen – Finding a Winning Story

– Allie Good, Covenant Class of 2016

Allie Sr Pick

Forum et Agora

Forum et Agora

Forum et Agora… an open-air public address in the style of the ancient Roman Suasoria, where a novice student of Rhetoric would deliver an argument acting as an advisor to a famous historical or legendary figure. At Covenant, we have adapted this method of training to involve an eighth grade student speaking as a famous historical figure to a group.

A beginner’s level rhetoric class -especially in the Dialectic School- is a challenge met by dedicating a pattern of learning to an end goal: a culminating event. Culminating events in this way give the student a motivation, and in the case of the Forum et Agora the motivation is a visible, reachable, rewarding, public end.

The public-communal nature of Classical education dictates that the student is not alone. Not only is she part of a family, and part of a tradition, and part of the Church, but she also partakes in a school community where her gifts will be honed and her voice will be heard. Modern education makes learning a private thing, quantified by numbers and personal achievement. At Covenant, achievement is a public phenomenon. To succeed publicly in the presence of the community -in that moment- forms the student and community together in a kind of seal. We become evidence of a promise.

The Forum et Agora does take work. Eighth grade students study the elements of Rhetoric… that course of study that identifies and categorizes the best practices of language with regards to persuasion. They drill and practice and repeat schemes and tropes and topics of invention and the panoply of terms many of which we don’t naturally believe exist. We play games with them. The eighth grader analyzes famous speeches with them. He constructs a framework of terms by which he applies content to form his own speech. He discovers content though choosing a thesis from this question: What is it that sets the Greek mind apart from the Roman mind or vice versa? He chooses a famous Greek or Roman. He researches a historical context or event to speak about. He practices his speech before his peers.

It is in this process of discovery of Rhetoric that the eighth grader begins to apply lessons of Elocution and Memory and Delivery. Written out, it all reads as a complex study of intertwining technical jargon and sequence, and it is that, yet Rhetoric is simultaneously artful and personal and delightful and intuitive. The Forum et Agora event provides a platform for your student to be heard and celebrated. Come watch her sway her crowd just as she intended.

– Mr. David Kemper has taught Humanities in Covenant’s Upper School since the school’s founding in 1997. In addition to teaching rhetoric, history, and literature, Mr. Kemper also directed Covenant’s highly regarded theater production of Arsenic & Old Lace.

Mr. Kemper

Andrew Peterson Visit

Covenant is thrilled to welcome award-winning author and musician Andrew Peterson for a visit to our campus on Monday, May 16. Peterson is an acclaimed singer, songwriter who has recorded some 15 albums over the past two decades, including the well-loved Behold the Lamb of God Christmas album. He is the author of the four-book Wingfeather Saga for young adults which has won multiple awards and recognition and has also become a favorite among some Covenant faculty members. Peterson is also the founder of the online community called the Rabbit Room which fosters creative conversation and collaboration among lovers of music, the arts, Scripture, and the Christian faith. As a musician, Peterson has forged his own path, refusing the artistic compromises that so often come with chasing commercial success and instead creating a catalogue of songs that “ache with sorrow, joy and integrity, and that are, at the end of the day, part of a real, ongoing, human conversation.”

Peterson will speak to our Grammar School students about his Wingfeather Saga book and will then address our Upper School students about The Cultivation of a Christian Imagination. Covenant is excited to bring people like Andrew Peterson (and Jonathan Bean, Gregory Thornbury, Don Opitz . . .) to campus to help instigate and inspire our students and community.

Click on this link to read an excellent review of The Wingfeather Saga by our own Dr. Matt Hunter.

While this event is intended primarily for our students, Covenant would like to also welcome guests who are interested in learning more about classical Christian education to join in our conversation with Andrew Peterson. A ticket is required. You may register for your free tickets here:

Click here to register for Andrew Peterson’s talk to Grammar School students on The Adventures of Great Stories (appropriate for ages 9-12).

Click here to register for Andrew Peterson’s talk to Upper School students on The Christian Imagination (for grades 7-12).



Dr. Matt Hunter Reviews The Wingfeather Saga

We asked Dr. Matt Hunter to write a review of Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga which he and his children enjoyed reading last year. Dr. Hunter teaches humanities in our Rhetoric school and is the father of two boys in our Grammar School. Be warned – you may find yourself wanting to immediately purchase or borrow these books!

The Wingfeather Saga by Andrew Peterson
Review by Dr. Matt Hunter

I read a lot of fiction to my children, and a lot of fantasy in particular; some of it quite decent, some rather shabby. Of course we are fans of the Narnia Chronicles and the Lord of the Rings, but what could compare to those? When Dr. Sonju recommended Andrew Peterson’s 4-Volume fantasy series Wingfeather Saga (and let us borrow his copies) last year, I assumed it would be of the decent variety; but frankly, I was not prepared. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is the first book in the series (followed by North! Or Be Eaten; The Monster in the Hollows and The Warden and the Wolf King, which won the 2014 World Magazine, Children’s Book of the Year award).

The Dark Sea of Darkness. The intentional redundancy struck me as pretty funny, but it’s really funny. It’s my kind of funny; a bit dry at times, but witty and clever. Within a few pages, I felt like Peterson, my children and I had a few inside jokes together. We are also introduced to the central characters, the Igiby family of the land of Skree, Glipwood Township: Grandpa Podo Helmer, an aging swashbuckler, rough around the edges, but adoring of his grandchildren; his daughter Nia Igiby, a beautiful widow; and her three children Janner, Tink and Leeli (and Leeli’s little dog Nugget). Though you might be tempted to see them as caricatures at the outset, each with their unique gifts and foibles, it’s only because you don’t know them well enough yet. Throughout the series, these characters unfold in believable complexity and we are introduced to a much larger cast of equally compelling characters, good and ill (and somewhere in between). We are also introduced to the villains of this series, Gnag the Nameless (Did you catch that? It’s funny.), who rules the greater part of Peterson’s fantasy-world (Aerwiar, another joke, you’ll understand when you read) and his reptilian servant-soldiers, the Fangs of Dang. And there are the dragons…

I want to speak to the value of these books as a Christian classical educator. The works of literature that we consider “classics,” and which we read at Covenant have some things in common. In no particular order of priority, I think they do three things. First, they stand the test of time. We don’t trust ourselves to be the arbiters of greatness. We count on some collective consensus that cannot be ruled by the whims and fashions of one time period or another. Obviously, time will tell whether The Wingfeather Saga endures, but I plan to do my part and have requested my local library to procure copies (I might donate if they do not, but my overdue fines should cover it at this point). Second, the “classics” demonstrate excellent use of the English language, in translation if not the original. The incredible range of styles that still demonstrate excellence (from Shakespeare to Shelley, Hawthorne to Hemingway) should encourage students that excellence doesn’t mean one single style. Peterson has his own style. Perhaps because he was a songwriter first, the series can be beautifully lyrical at times, but there are probably others who are better equipped to evaluate this and linguistic excellence in fiction can be somewhat subjective. Third, the “classics” speak about great universal human themes.

This third mark of the “classics” is perhaps the most important to me. I want the content to generate “discussion,” the verbal pursuit of questions and answers (however provisional) that are worthy of our time and energy. This is certainly the case with The Wingfeather Saga. A great mystery surrounds the entire series and many questions arise that are only really answered much later. I want to avoid giving anything away. If the books possess any weakness, it might be that there are stretches where the Igibys “wander in the wilderness” (literally and figuratively) and you really want them to arrive in the Promised Land, but it’s worth it. This too is a great human theme (and a biblical one, obviously). Suffice it to say that, in addition to humor, there is great adventure, skirmishes and battles, quest and exploration (like many of the recognized “classics”). There is much to hold one’s attention, but there is also much to talk about. There is terrifying evil and brilliant goodness, jealousy and generosity, betrayal and loyalty, cowardice and courage, incipient selfishness as well as self-sacrifice. Heroes and heroines in classic literature often have fatal flaws. In Peterson’s fantastical series, weak characters are found to possess incredible powers. Beloved characters are found to have monstrous secrets, evil characters are found to be heart-broken and sometimes monsters are found to possess heart-rending goodness. This is what I was least prepared for: the heart-rending, the occasional choking back of tears for the beauty and truth conveyed in these stories, the moments when I had to risk the catch in my throat and keep reading because I desperately want my children to know the truths these stories tell.

“Is this a “Christian” fantasy series then? Like Narnia?” I might argue that any work which tells the truth about humanity (an aspect of my third mark of the “classics”) must be “Christian” in some sense and Peterson is a Christian, but it’s not like Narnia. Besides the fact that Peterson’s writing style is entirely different from that of C.S. Lewis, his world does not overlap with ours. Aslan and Jesus both exist in some sense in the Chronicles of Narnia. Peterson’s series isn’t like that. “Well, there’s the whole good-versus-evil theme right?” Yes, but it’s so much more complex than that and I tend to think good-versus-evil is a weaker basis on which to call something Christian than “truth about humanity.” “But you said there’s self-sacrifice, so there’s a Christ-figure like Aslan and what-not?” Yes, there is both redemption and self-sacrifice, but while Lewis clearly tries to tell the story of the cross in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Peterson’s story doesn’t get there as quickly, nor does it try to be an allegory of the Gospels in the same direct sense. I think if I had to explain why Christians should read these books, it’s because they are really good, and because they possess the emotional and relational content of the Gospel. In other words, these stories could only emerge from the imagination and heart of someone who understood the world through the Gospel. The “deep magic” that works in Narnia in some sense must also be working in the land of Aerwiar. I’m thrilled that he is coming to talk with our students (and my children are beside themselves). Prepare yourself; or maybe don’t. Tolle lege!