For many high school seniors, graduation is a time of unadulterated joy -- an occasion for bouncing beach balls in the crowd, tossing mortarboards in the air and whooping when the names of friends are read aloud.
But a group of committed Christian students at Lawrence's two public high schools wanted their upcoming graduation activities to offer much more than that.
They wanted to mark this upcoming milestone in their lives by acknowledging their faith and their thanks to God.
So last semester they decided, on their own, to bring back the all-but-abandoned tradition of having a baccalaureate service for the city's graduating seniors and their families.
It's taken a lot of work, but members of Free State High School's DUB Club -- it stands for Divine Unity of Believers -- are about to pull it off.
On Thursday, they will be host to a baccalaureate service for graduating seniors of Free State and Lawrence High School, their families and friends in Free State's auditorium.
"The service provides a new look at graduation that the graduation ceremony (itself) doesn't provide. For everyone, this is a new chapter in our lives, and our schools aren't allowed to talk about faith-based things," says Kelsey Randall, 18, vice president of Free State's senior class and a member of DUB Club.
"This (baccalaureate) gets people thinking about 'Where am I going, where am I headed?' -- not physically, but spiritually."
Members of DUB Club -- an officially recognized, student-led club at Free State that also includes students from LHS -- say the event will be the first baccalaureate service for graduating seniors of the city's two public high schools in at least four or five years.
Free State last had a baccalaureate service when Kelsey's older sister, Josie, graduated from the school in 2000.
Which is something that Kelsey's mother, Libby Randall, reminded her daughter and some of her senior friends last fall.
"The kids didn't have a clue what baccalaureate was," Libby says. "They looked it up in the dictionary a couple months ago. After second semester, I said, 'You guys might want to start thinking about this; you might have a chance to make an impact.' I just mentioned it, and they ran with it."
Kelsey Randall and other DUB Club members, including Mandy Ogunnowo, 17, a Free State senior and president of the student council; and Jon Birney, 17, a senior at LHS, organized the baccalaureate service.
"I was sold on the idea because faith is such a part of my life. This (graduation) is a big step for me, so I want my faith to be part of it," Birney says.
Ogunnowo feels the same way.
"Me personally, faith is my life. It helps me with decisions and when I'm having hardships. This (baccalaureate) will be a time for us to gather to celebrate a change in our lives," she says.
Kelsey and her family are members of Grace Evangelical Presbyterian Church, 3312 Calvin Drive. Ogunnowo and Birney belong to First Christian Church, 1000 Ky.
DUB Club members have done all the work of organizing the baccalaureate, getting approval from the two high schools to have it and choosing what they wanted the service to feature. They are planning to promote the event this week through Lawrence churches.
Libby is proud of her daughter and her friends for bringing back the tradition of a baccalaureate.
"I'm really excited about it. These are kids of faith from families of faith, and they are approaching a milestone in their lives. And when people of faith approach a milestone in their lives, it has a spiritual element," she says.
"High school graduation marks a point when they're transitioning from childhood to adulthood. These are kids who want to acknowledge that with their faith."
|A baccalaureate service for graduating seniors of Lawrence High School and Free State High School will be from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday at Free State's auditorium, 4700 Overland Drive.The event is sponsored by DUB Club (Divine Unity of Believers), an officially recognized, student-led Christian group at Free State. The club has 20 to 25 members and includes students from Lawrence High School.The baccalaureate will feature the reading of Scripture, contemporary worship music and an address by Stephen Vinson, a 2002 LHS graduate and member of the Kansas University men's basketball team.The service is open to the community.For more information, send an e-mail to Mandy Ogunnowo, Free State senior, at firstname.lastname@example.org.|