DOVER — They rose near dawn five days a week throughout high school.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints sessions lasted 40 minutes each day for four straight years, beginning at 5:50 a.m.
Eight seniors returned to more standard sleep patterns with last weekend’s graduation, though freshmen through juniors are far from finished.
Learning scripture through the Seminary Program yielded awareness that will expand with experience in the coming years, not diminish, according to the plan.
“It was quite difficult to get out of bed so early at times, but it does pay off in the long run for all I’ve learned and grown from it, said now-graduated Smyrna High product Bradley Beamer.
“I now have a much better understanding that we’re blessed every day and see all the small blessings that truly show the presence of God in my life,”
High achieving goals never wanted for students, among others:
• Madelyn Balenca who ran cross country and track and participated in chorus before school, along with taking part in multiple service groups (one which traveled to Central America last summer). She’ll attend Utah State University this fall.
“It was kind of like a back to back to back situation at all times,” she said.
• Beamer co-coached his school’s Unified Track and Field Team, oversaw a student-run Sylo leadership program fostering personal growth for middle school students, earned National Honor Society inclusion and was a Tri-M Honor Society member for his percussion play. He’s bound for a two-year Church Mission where he will teach the Tongan language after training in Provo, Utah.
According to Balenca, “Staying awake is kind of hard especially when staying up the night before to study for a heavy course load and then taking part in all the activities in school the same day.”
Rewards were aplenty, however.
“I liked how my day would go if I had seminary and I liked knowing that I would be better able to handle something like a test,” Balenca said.
“On days of a test I felt more calm and felt more in command of the material, along with a feeling of peace that I was going to do pretty well.”
Online study too
Holly Siebach taught the online seminary program for local students, which involved completing lesson a day and writing two responses anytime between 6 a.m. and midnight. Skype united the home-study students weekly, with text, video and photos utilized.
More than 4,000 students in 170 countries currently participate in seminary.
The Bible’s Old and New Testament are examined, along with the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price.
“You can’t ask someone to share what they believe if they don’t know what they’re talking about,” Ms. Siebach said.
There’s 100 scriptures to learn and “they are the same now as they were when I came through,” said Ms. Siebach, who completed the Seminary as a teenage in Pennsylvania.
“There’s a focus on getting kids to stand up for what’s right, though it’s a different world today. Modesty in many ways is important, such as the way to dress and present yourself, the language you use and behaving in the most humble way,”
Ecclesiastical leader Darrin Gordon, president of the Dover Stake Presidency overseeing six congregations from Smyrna to Salisbury, Maryland, described the process as “asking a lot of them so they can develop the tools that meet the standards we set including good dress and language, modesty and living with as much high moral character as possible.”
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