North Rome Christian School said farewell to its largest graduating class to date Saturday when 15 seniors received their high school diplomas.

During the ceremony, students reflected on the memories and stories they shared while at the school and advised one another to persevere and to maintain their faith as they take on new challenges.

While many changes have occurred over students' time at the school - new teachers, switching classes, gaining and losing classmates - "our God never changes," said valedictorian Sarah Malkemes in her address.

Teachers and parents encouraged seniors to resist the temptation to slack off and to finish out the year strong, said Ciara Altieri, one of the class's two salutatorians. Now that they've graduated, the hard work still isn't over, Altieri cautioned her classmates.

"As we leave here and go out into the world, hard times are going to come," Altieri said. "I want to encourage you to persevere through the storms, to keep your eyes on the prize, and to finish strong."

In his salutatorian speech, Nicholas Stanton also stressed the importance of perseverance. "Just as we have worked hard to earn this cap, be even more diligent in striving to someday wear a crown," he said.

The students also received advice from speaker Mark Philbrick, who taught at NRCS for nine years before becoming assistant pastor at Lighthouse Baptist Church in Horseheads, N.Y.

"Don't live boring," Philbrick told the class in his commencement address. "Fulfillment isn't an event. It's an attitude."

Philbrick encouraged students to use their God-given creativity, embrace a role in their churches with enthusiasm, surround themselves with energetic people, discover and practice their gifts, go on mission trips and pay attention to others.

"Life is about discovering who God created you to be," Philbrick said.

Before departing the stage, Philbrick gave each student a gift - a jar of his famous homemade chocolate sauce.

The North Rome Christian School Class of 2013 also includes Kristofer Czajkowski, Bree Dimon, Zachary Hiduk, Tylar Loziere, Philip Maenza III, William O'Dell, Ethen Pross, Montgomery Sickler, Jordon Stringham, Taylor Swain, Julie Vargason and Seth Wilson.

Amanda Renko can be reached at (570) 888-9652; or email: arenko@thedailyreview.com.