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Freedom Prep graduates its first batch of seniors

By Karissa Neely daily Herald - | May 20, 2016
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Speaker Ethan Chan delivers a speech during the first graduation of Freedom Preparatory Academy on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at the Provo Library in Provo. The school's first graduation in its history took place on Thursday, with some graduates having started in kindergarten, when the school first opened. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Graduates prepare to make their walk during the first graduation of Freedom Preparatory Academy on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at the Provo Library in Provo. The very first graduation of the school featured various speakers, as well as students that were kindergartners when the school first opened its doors. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Students listen to the National Anthem during the first graduation of Freedom Preparatory Academy on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at the Provo Library in Provo. The very first graduation of the school featured various speakers, as well as students that were kindergartners when the school first opened its doors. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Students gather for their graduation ceremony during the first graduation of Freedom Preparatory Academy on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at the Provo Library in Provo. The very first graduation of the school featured various speakers, as well as students that were kindergartners when the school first opened its doors. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Students gather for their graduation ceremony during the first graduation of Freedom Preparatory Academy on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at the Provo Library in Provo. The very first graduation of the school featured various speakers, as well as students that were kindergartners when the school first opened its doors. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Students gather for their graduation ceremony during the first graduation of Freedom Preparatory Academy on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at the Provo Library in Provo. The very first graduation of the school featured various speakers, as well as students that were kindergartners when the school first opened its doors. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Students gather for their graduation ceremony during the first graduation of Freedom Preparatory Academy on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at the Provo Library in Provo. The very first graduation of the school featured various speakers, as well as students that were kindergartners when the school first opened its doors. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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Students gather and listen to the National Anthem during the first graduation of Freedom Preparatory Academy on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at the Provo Library in Provo. The very first graduation of the school featured various speakers, as well as students that were kindergartners when the school first opened its doors. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

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A small class of seniors gathers during the first graduation of Freedom Preparatory Academy on Thursday, May 19, 2016 at the Provo Library in Provo. The very first graduation of the school featured various speakers, as well as students that were kindergartners when the school first opened its doors. DOMINIC VALENTE, Daily Herald

It might not have been the biggest graduating class, but it was the first.

Freedom Preparatory Academy opened its doors September of 2003, and just 12 and a half years later, it graduated its first batch of seniors Thursday afternoon. With excitement and a long career of firsts behind them, the 25 graduating seniors celebrated their achievement while gathered with friends and family in the ballroom of the Provo City Library at Academy Square.

“Most graduates never have the opportunity to be the first ones to set in motion future traditions,” said Kim Flewallen, assistant principal and upper-level math teacher. “These seniors have become experts at being the ‘first.’ They are not merely following the clearly cut path of those who have gone before. They are the ones actually forging ahead, cutting the path and shaping the future for all who come after.”

The Freedom Prep class of 2016 enjoyed the opportunity to create new traditions at the school — ones they hope will continue long after they are gone. One of those was the senior class trip to Mexico most of the students will be embarking on this coming Monday. As part of the Good Will Foundation, the graduates will be serving in an orphanage there for the next week.

“I like that we get to start new traditions like the senior trip. The juniors are already fundraising for their trip to Mexico next year. We hope this will continue as a tradition,” said Ethan Chan, salutatorian.

This trip is only the culminating event of a long history of service for the class of 2016. In leading the way for students to follow, the class started an Eagle Scout Service Unit — a campus club allowing individual students to develop and carry out service projects. They also started the student leadership organization, and completed a variety of service projects over the past four years including taking toys and school supplies to Tahiti, assembling school supply bags to take to an orphanage in Mexico, making blankets and hero capes for refugees, planting trees in France, fundraising to build water wells in India, clearing the grounds around the school, organizing a Global Youth Service day, and making Teeny Tear Diapers for premature babies who passed away.

In his graduation speech, Chan encouraged his fellow students to continue to be charitable and kind as they ventured out into the world. Valedictorian Spencer Allen’s graduation speech touched on perseverance, recalling examples of the strong and steady efforts of the graduating class.

Giovanni Espinoza is one of about three students who spent their entire school career at Freedom Prep. He and two friends started kindergarten there together, and with the small class sizes at the school, have been there for each other since.

“It’s almost been kind of like a big family kind of experience. I’ve always had my friends with me,” Espinoza said.

That family atmosphere has helped all the students throughout their school experience, most of them with measurable success. Allen and Chan both were awarded scholarships from Freedom Prep because of their example of critical thinking, ethical and passionate leadership, and impact in their local community. Allen, Chan and Espinoza all have been accepted to Brigham Young University. Each plans to serve an LDS mission, and then major in hefty subjects, like engineering and physical therapy.

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