The sounds of excited conversation, laughter, and the occasional ukulele grew louder as Pensacola Christian College seniors filed into the Sports Center Arena. Almost everyone came dressed for the occasion—Hawaiian shirts, leis that symbolize love, honor, and friendship, and any other luau-styled accessory they had. After most had taken their seats, senior class president Mateo Bernsdorff (OH) welcomed his classmates to the night to remember and celebrate their accomplishments—the Senior Class Party.
College President Troy Shoemaker and his wife Denise soon joined Mateo on the court, excited to share this special time with a class that had handled a great deal of change as PCC navigated the last two years. “If there has ever been a class that has persevered through so much, it’s this class,” Dr. Shoemaker said.
Every year, senior class officers plan a special evening to honor the perseverance and endurance of each soon-to-be graduate. The theme, “Aloha, Seniors,” communicated a hello and heartfelt goodbye, signaling the bittersweet end of college. “The officers and I chose this theme to welcome seniors to the luau-style party, but in a greater sense, we are bidding them farewell as we will all be parting ways in a couple of months,” said Mateo.
The event was originally going to be held on First Street Field but rainy weather moved the party inside. The night began with a four-way tug of war in the arena and then moved down to the first floor, where students could ride a mechanical bull, joust, and use a fun photo booth. Seniors enjoyed a variety of themed foods such as grilled pineapple and pork kabobs along with a Kona Ice truck. Everyone could participate in a raffle for special prizes and hunt for hidden prizes, specifically four pineapple piñatas that held gift cards.
Multiple volunteers used their time to help set up, decorate for, and work in different areas at the luau. Katie Gallagher (GA), who will be pursuing a master’s in Bible exposition this fall, loved the food and overall theme, especially the leis. “I really appreciate all the behind-the-scenes work to put this on for us,” she said.
During the party, many seniors planned to spend time with friends they don’t see often because of differing schedules. “[I was] looking forward to seeing all the seniors at once,” said Caleb Thomas (WI). “It was fun to talk to people that I haven’t seen or talked to recently and hear about their plans after college.”
Although the event was a time to celebrate, the past four years were not without trials and challenges. Harrison Jones (GA) described his peers as being resilient. “The class of 2022 has endured a rollercoaster of circumstances and emotions. We battled uncertainty as God gave our faculty, staff, and administrators strength to lead us through the pandemic,” he said. “After finishing a wild ride of adapting to different schedules and changing protective policy, we made it to senior year.”
Some looked back on the leadership positions they held and gained experience from. “I was elected as president in our collegian and then I became an RA (residence assistant),” said Daniel Hartono (Indonesia). “Those opportunities really helped me grow in my leadership skills.”
While assignments increasingly test the skills they learned, students adapted and persevered under pressure. Joshua William (Indonesia), a mechanical engineering senior, learned to lean on God through difficulty. “There were a lot of times I didn’t think I could make it through. But in the end, I always pulled through, and I know it wasn’t me—it’s [God] giving me strength,” he said. “I feel like that taught me a lot about how to trust Him.”
Each senior remembers their academic journey differently, but most reflect on how they’ve grown in the last four years. “I am a different person now than the girl who arrived as a freshman,” said Jacqueline Hansen (VA). “It has been hard, but I wouldn’t change it. I have grown in my walk with the Lord, and I have grown as a person. This party was a highlight—the energy and excitement that we all have for the future.”
As the class of 2022 prepares to graduate and influence the world for Christ, they will take away wonderful memories, valuable skills, and worthwhile friendships. Their PCC journey is nearly over, but a new chapter in their lives is about to begin!