Ludwig went through a list of the various qualities students tend to associate with success: popularity, good grades, living up to their parents' expectations, marriage. But then he told the biblical tale of the Prodigal Son, who returns home to earn the acclaim and love of his family despite having left them and squandered his fortune.
"In the end, he made it in the world because he made it home; he was the son returned," Ludwig said. "Just like you, Class of 2006, have already made it because you are sons and daughters in a kingdom more vast than you will ever know. You are already a success. Let God make a success of your life. Because the One who started a good work in your life will complete it."
In reflecting the faith-based education that the academy prides itself on, Principal Glen Baker presented two students with the title Mr. and Ms. Glendale Adventist Academy. Andrew Fernandez and Karolyna Suarez received the awards, which Baker said are given to students who "best exemplify the principles of Christian education," including leadership and community service.
In her presentation to the graduates, class President Natasha Gill urged her classmates to take with them more than just the information and knowledge they absorbed in their four years at the academy.
"I hope we all take with us a desire for wisdom, and I leave you with this bit of wisdom: You only get out of life what you are willing to put into it," said Gill, who graduated with honors and an Advanced College Preparatory Diploma, one of only six given out to the class.
But she admitted that while effort is important, attitude is equally important to succeeding in life.
"We shouldn't stress about the little things, and learn to cherish every moment because we never know what tomorrow will bring," Gill said. "Hopefully, at the academy you learned to balance hard work with having a little fun along the way."
Graduating with highest honors Sunday were Karolyna Suarez, Elyssa Bangunan Rivero, Lisa Rae Iskander, and Michael Behnam Hashemi.
The class also left the academy as its gift a banner display system to be placed on the campus' distinctive clock tower for announcements of major school events.
Before presenting the diplomas, Baker, the principal, lauded his departing students.
"I am proud of each and every one of these graduates and what each has brought to our school."