Aaron Holloway, 17
• Parents: Mike and Sheila Holloway
• College: UTC
Garrett Howard, 18
• Parents: Gary and Angie Howard
• College: UTC
Thomas Leslie, 17
• Parents: Kenneth and Jennifer Leslie
• College: UTC
Regan Robertson, 18
• Parents: Russ and Shelly Robertson
• College: Bryan
Four seniors at Silverdale Baptist Academy will be recognized as "last" and "first" among their class of 2012 at tonight's graduation.
Regan Robertson, Garrett Howard, Thomas Leslie and Aaron Holloway are the last four of the six students who comprised the founding kindergarten class of Silverdale Baptist Academy in 1999. As such, they are the first students to complete all 13 grades (K-12) of their education at SBA.
The four agreed tonight's graduation will a bittersweet occasion as they part ways after 13 years of friendship.
"When you've spent your entire life here, and it's all you've ever known, it starts to sink in how much it's meant in your life," Thomas said.
After opening in Silverdale Baptist Church with its first kindergarten class in 1999, Silverdale Baptist Academy added grades K-12 with 235 students the following year. In 2003, a new school building was completed adjacent to the church. Silverdale Baptist Academy, with an enrollment now of 793, will break ground on a new addition to the school next month.
This quartet of seniors has been part of every milestone the school marked.
"Homecoming on the new football field," said Aaron of his favorite school memory.
"The opening of the new sports complex," said Regan of hers.
Mickey Hammel, the high school principal, said he has watched the four grow into leadership roles at the school through the years. Their extracurricular activities range from football, baseball, volleyball and track to praise band and drama.
"Garrett was presented one of our awards for athletic leadership. He is a servant leader whose leadership spills into the school hallways as well. Aaron is musically inclined and has stepped up to be leader in the chapel band," Hammel said.
"Regan has a heart for helping ease the way for students younger than she. You'll see her giving girls advice on what to expect from what she's been through," the principal said.
All four have excelled in academics, graduating with grade-point averages of 3.1 or higher.
They've experienced life's hard lessons as well. This class of seniors lost one of their classmates when Tony Baughman died in a car crash in January.
Hammel said the leadership shown by Thomas following that death "shone in an amazing way."
"It really put things into perspective for all of us," said Thomas. "It showed us how fragile life is and how everything we do counts toward our eternal life. It has brought us all closer than I could ever imagine."
"Before, we were all friends. Now we're all family," Aaron said.
When the teens considered their class's legacy, they quoted the school's headmaster, Becky Hansard.
"Mrs. Hansard always says an SBA student leaves a place better than they found it," Aaron said.
Regan adds the quartet's own legacy is one of faith and trust in God; examples, she said, were set by their parents.
"Our parents stepped out on faith to put us in a new school. They trusted it was going to work. By faith we started here and we'll finish here."
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...