Yukon Patriots stand on firm foundation

Southwest Covenant’s Class of 2022 honored at graduation ceremony for overcoming adversity

In what has become an annual tradition, new Southwest Covenant graduates throw their hats into the air in the lobby of Covenant Community Church to close the graduation ceremony. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

A special group of Patriots that has endured through “trials and storms” – notably the loss of a classmate – celebrated this week after finishing 560 weeks of school.

Twenty-two Southwest Covenant seniors became the latest class to earn their diplomas during a May 26th graduation ceremony in the Covenant Community Church sanctuary, 2250 S Yukon Parkway.

“You have built a foundation – and a foundation that is strong and that is firm,” Southwest Covenant Schools’ Headmaster Steve Lessman told the students.

“That foundation has been passed down to you from your parents, pastors and a lot of teachers. … You do stand on a foundation that’s been built on the storms of life.”

Thursday night’s Southwest Covenant graduation ceremony featured an address by valedictorian Jillian Nason.

Salutatorians are Sierra Andrus, Brandon Bowers, Anthony Cox, Tucker Croy, Jordan Griswold, Noah Holley, Jesse Judkins, Grant Mosshart, Mercy Stevens, and Julia Warner.

Honor graduates are Lilly Brown, Hannah Dunningham, Bryson Ford, Grayson Jones, and Abby Schroeder.

Other graduates are Anna Bell, Wayne Cook, Joel England, Laney Gatlin, James Hobia, and Aden Rinkle.

All members of the Class of 2022 took turns thanking their parents during the traditional “senior tribute”.

An empty chair was placed beside the Patriot graduates in memory of Peter Webb, who died during his sophomore year after suffering a severe head injury during a September 2019 football game. His mother is SWCS Board President Stacy Webb.

“Tonight, we leave an empty seat, we lay a rose to remember and we take a moment to say, ‘We miss our friend’,” SWCS High School Principal Kevin Cobbs said. “But this is also a night of wonderful celebration.

“We celebrate all this class has accomplished and we honor them while remembering Peter. So, seniors, enjoy tonight. Have fun tonight. We’re here to celebrate you. Peter would expect nothing less.”

Cobbs presented the 22 seniors for graduation, referring to the “adversity, trials and difficulties” this class has faced.

Most recently, their flight home from the annual senior trip to Boston was canceled.

“They adjusted and made the most of it,” Cobbs said. “They were complimented by many airport workers for their attitude – and that comes as no surprise.

“Steadfastness has been a learned character quality for the Class of 2022.”

Jillian Nason presents the valedictorian address during the graduation ceremony for the Southwest Covenant Class of 2022. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Laney Gatlin walks out of the Covenant Community Church sanctuary as she and her fellow Southwest Covenant graduates accept congratulations from their teachers. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Members of the Southwest Covenant Class of 2022 bow their heads during the closing prayer presented by Headmaster Steve Lessman. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)


Headmaster Lessman, in his closing charge to the 22 graduating seniors, called the class “vintage Southwest Covenant” because of the challenges they’ve had to overcome.

He used “tough” and “old school” to describe this unique group.

“Take a minute and reflect,” Lessman said. “This is the last time you will all be together in a setting like this.

“Reflect on the teachers, the education, the struggles, the loss, the fun. It’s all mixed together.”

The headmaster offered well wishes to the Class of 2022 as they embark on their life journey – college, career, family, and new friendships.

“We’re so proud of the heart that you have for the Lord, the heart you have for each other and the heart you have to make an impact on this school for Christ,” he said.

The new Southwest Covenant grads have a rock-solid foundation.

“There will be more storms,” Lessman told his Patriots. “But there will also be incredible blessings ahead. You guys have so much to look forward to.

“Along that journey – every step of the way – God will be at your side. … There is so much to look forward to. And with a foundation built on Christ, our faculty and staff are confident you will stand firm and be a tremendous influence for Christ in this world.”

Joel England gives his parents a hug after reading his senior tribute. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Senior Class President Jesse Judkins addresses his parents during the senior tribute. Later in the program, Judkins offered a farewell to the Class of 2022. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)


On behalf of the SWCS faculty, Lessman recommended the class for graduation.

“By God’s grace and provision, we have finished our part of His process for their lives,” he told the audience.

As the new Patriot grads took the stage to receive their diplomas, their accomplishments were read aloud by academic coordinator Elizabeth Bowers during the senior testimonials.

Another highlight of Thursday night’s SWCS graduation program was a farewell presented by Judkins, the 2022 senior class president. He was joined on the platform by the 2023 senior class president, Luke Spaeny.

“For the upcoming school year, the school Bible will remain open to the 2022 class verse,” Judkins said.

The Class of ’22 Bible verse is James 1:12 – “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.”

After reading the verse, Judkins charged the incoming senior class with the responsibility of being “spiritual leaders” of Southwest Covenant Schools.

“Do this by living according to God’s Word, and by meeting with Him in prayer and study his Word on a daily basis,” he said.

Spaeny accepted this charge on behalf of the Class of 2023.

“With the help of the Lord God Almighty, we will fulfill this responsibility,” he said.

Southwest Covenant’s 2022 graduation ceremony included the National Anthem led by choir director C.J. Carpenter, invocation by SWCS board member Shonn Carmack and the “Pomp and Circumstance” processional and “On Wings of Eagles” recessional led by band director Bryan Myers.

A reception followed in the SWCS gymnasium.

Aden Rinkle smiles as academic coordinator Elizabeth Bowers reads about his accomplishments during the senior testimonials. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
James Hobia and other Patriot grads receive hearty congratulations as the commencement ceremony comes to a close. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
Southwest Covenant board member Shonn Carmack offers the invocation. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)


Southwest Covenant Schools’ purpose is to provide a discipleship-training ministry for equipping students for a lifetime of service to the Lord.

The school’s Christ-centered instruction models the love of Christ and promotes an uncompromising Biblical worldview.

Southwest Covenant’s standard of academic excellence will uniquely prepare students to impact their community, country and world to the glory of Almighty God.

Southwest Covenant started in 1982 as an elementary school and the high school was added in 1996. A new high school building is due to open for the 2022-23 school year as part of a 40-year anniversary celebration.

Tucker Croy tells his parents how much they’ve meant to him growing up during his senior tribute. Each of the 22 Patriot graduates addressed their parents during the ceremony. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)
An enthusiastic group of Patriots celebrate the completion of their time attending Southwest Covenant Schools. There were 22 members in the Class of 2022. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)