Sullivan County and Kingsport area graduating seniors soon will celebrate graduation with a nondenominational Christian graduation service.
It is the 12th annual baccalaureate service and is set for Sunday evening.
Co-chaired by Cheryl Harvey, work force development manager for Eastman Chemical Co., and Claire Upshaw, a physical therapist, Harvey said the event planned by students with coordination from mothers is to start at 6:30 p.m. at Higher Ground Baptist Church, 1625 Lynn Garden Drive.
“It got started because baccalaureate is a worship service, and because of the separation of church and state the public schools eliminated the baccalaureate service,” Harvey said, adding that the public is welcome at the service.
With more than 1,000 seniors graduating in the five public high schools, Harvey said organizers expect at least 250 or so students in attendance. Counting parents, grandparents, siblings and others, she said the event usually draws at least 500.
This year’s speaker is Justin Lookadoo, a motivational Christian speaker and author from McKinney, Texas. Copies of one of his books will be given out to seniors as they leave.
Aside from the speaker, Harvey said the event will include student music performances, a student testimonial, and a performance by Higher Ground’s praise band of high school and college students.
“This is nondenominational even through it is in a Baptist church,” Harvey said.
Harvey said the event has been held at the MeadowView Conference Resort and Convention Center but was moved to the church this year so more money could go toward the program.
The church donated use of its facility for the program, to which all graduating seniors are invited from Kingsport’s Dobyns-Bennett High School and Sullivan County’s North, South, Central and East high schools, as well as home-schooled students and those from Christian and private schools.
Funding for the program, which includes speaker fees and expenses for the book for all seniors attending, comes from strictly private sources, Harvey said.
The event also includes a unity ceremony with representatives of the five public schools.
Harvey said a separate baccalaureate is held for seniors at Tennessee High School in Bristol.