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Senior Thesis

The Westminster Academy Senior Thesis

One of the important milestones of a student’s education at Westminster Academy is the delivery and defense of the senior thesis. This is a comprehensive and integrative project that requires Westminster Academy students to use the knowledge and skills they’ve acquired throughout their education to craft a thoughtful and persuasive argument from a Christian worldview on a topic of their choice. The thesis must be thoroughly researched, well-reasoned, carefully documented, and winsomely presented.

The yearlong thesis process culminates with a 15-20 minute presentation, followed by a 10-15 minute defense guided by a panel of Capstone faculty.  As a result of COVID-19 and its impact on group gatherings, the seniors were not able to deliver their speeches in person this year.  Instead, students all submitted videos of their thesis presentations followed by a scheduled defense with the Capstone faculty and their peers via online video conferencing. At the completion of all presentations, the Rhetoric and Capstone faculty select a recipient of the John and Day Hodges Rhetoric Award. This decision takes into account not only the presentation and defense, but also quality of the research, the strength of the Christian worldview, and the effectiveness of the student’s written paper. The winner of this award is submitted as Westminster Academy’s entry to the ACCS Chrysostom Oratory Competition.

The top senior thesis will be entered into the Association of Christian and Classical School Chrysostom speech contest. The 2020 John and Day Hodges Rhetoric Award goes to Haleigh Sturman.


Haleigh Grace Sturman

Why Christians Should Foster Children

Thesis Statement: Christians should foster children, firstly because God commands us to, secondly its power to change not only the earthly, but also the eternal life of a child or teen, and thirdly because fostering children has the power to change a society.

Brief Description: In my thesis I tackle the topics of why Christians have a duty to foster children. I will first give some brief information on the foster system, and define terms such as “age out”, “at risk”, and “the system”. Then I will prove my thesis with scripture, research, and statistics. Following this, I will address the audiences' concerns about money and resources,  any potential dangers that could be involved in fostering, as well as any inadequacies you may be feeling.

Plans: At this time I am planning on attending the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. If the fall semester were to be moved online due to the Coronavirus, then I would postpone university for one year while attending EMT school.

Prayer Requests: At this time my family is preparing to move, so we would appreciate prayers for a smooth transition out of one home and into the next. Also pray that God’s plans for my future would be made clear to me.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)


Sarah Ruth Teague

The Path Towards Unity: A Multiethnic Church

Thesis Statement: The Church must integrate, so that it follows the Biblical drama of Redemption and finds peace and unity through a multiethnic Church.

Brief Description: The majority of Churches in America are split along ethnic lines. This speech will discuss how the Bible teaches that the Church is meant to be multiethnic, why our Churches are divided, and how we can reunite with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Plans: I plan to attend the University of Alabama in the fall.

Prayer Requests: Please pray for peace, courage, and wisdom for me, my friends, and my family as we transition into this new phase of life. Pray that we draw near to God and dedicate ourselves to His service.

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages standing before the throne.” Revelation 7:9


Sarah Delafield Singleton

The Power of Storytelling

Thesis Statement: To understand the inherent value in storytelling we must take into consideration their historical importance, role in present society, and potential benefit to successive generations.

Brief Description: The problem with storytelling in today’s society is that we have ceased to care about the type of story we perpetuate and to understand the benefit of telling those stories at all. The solution to this cultural issue is the rediscovery of why stories matter, and the realization that they are a powerful tool for which we as a society are responsible. To tell good stories is to benefit future generations, and if storytelling is allowed to devolve, culture begins to crumble.

Plans: I plan to attend the University of North Alabama to study English with a concentration in literature. Beyond that, your guess is as good as mine!

Prayer Requests: Westminster has been a home to me for the past thirteen years. Please pray for me as I seek to find my footing in an entirely new community next year.

“Has such a thing happened in your days, or in the days of your fathers? Tell your children of it, and let your children tell their children, and their children to another generation.” Joel 1:2-3

Josiah Bratton

Fear: A Necessity

Thesis Statement: Fear is a good and beneficial thing

Brief Description: This speech is about how fear is not bad as one might think. It is instead a beneficial thing to mankind.

Plans: I will attend Mississippi State University.

Prayer Requests: Everything in my life is going pretty well right now. I suppose prayer for things to continue to go well is appropriate.

“A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of council and of might, the Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord—and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.” Isaiah 11: 1-3


Leah Madison Campbell

The Idol of Busyness

Thesis Statement: Busyness is causing our society to decline in productivity, and it is something that needs to be understood and addressed.

Brief Description: I will be talking about why busyness has become an idol and what steps we can take to overcome it and manage our time well.

Plans: I am going to study interior design at Mississippi College.

Prayer Requests: Please pray for me as I am preparing for college and that I will enjoy each moment I have and live in the present.

“Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken from her.” Galatians 5:13


Zoie Scout Clowdus

Beauty in Sadness

Thesis Statement: Sadness works to contribute to the beauty in life as a necessity, a muse, and an educator.

Brief Description: My aim is to bring light to the beauty in all things in this world, my thesis being focused specifically on the beauty that we can find in sadness. My hope is to communicate the beauty that is so often overlooked in this widely unloved emotion.

Plans: I plan to pursue art & design at Watkins College of Art.

Prayer Requests: For the future! Please pray for peace, growth, and happiness in my future days!

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10


Jackson Dean Fontenot

The internal combustion engine in the modern world

Thesis Statement: The internal combustion should continue to be used because of its importance in the economy, daily business, and its dominance in power.

Brief Description: My scope is to show people the history, technology, and the reasons why the gas engine is still the best and most important piece of technology in the world.

Plans: I plan to attend MTSU for the professional pilot program.

Prayer Requests: Prayers for the future and what lies ahead in my career and my journey of faith.

“What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9


Anna Elizabeth Funes

The Way Home, The Bridge Between Us, and The Road to You

Thesis Statement: With a Biblical foundation, the Enneagram can inspire radical change spiritually, relationally, and personally.

Brief Description: The Enneagram is a personality typology system that most people use as a hobby to get to know themselves a little better. But when taking a closer look at the core of what it is, there are many benefits that can have lasting effects. My hope in sharing this speech is to bring awareness to a tool that has helped me in many ways in my relationship with myself, with others, and our Creator.

Plans: After graduation, I plan to attend the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and see where that takes me!

Prayer Requests: Please pray over my amazing family and the coming transitions of sending me off to college and for strength in the next year, especially for my Mom.

“So get rid of your old self, which made you live as you used to - the old self that was being destroyed by its deceitful desires. Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy.” Ephesians 4:22-24


Sarah Gentry

Train Up a Child

Thesis Statement: In a world that revolves around technology, Christians have a unique calling to raise children as holistically as possible by focusing on their mental, social, and creative development.

Brief Description: Technology’s high speed is harming children’s brain development and their childhood. 1 Corinthians 6:19 tells us that our bodies are temples of the Lord, bought at a high price, and God should be honored through them at every opportunity. God has designed children to develop along a certain path to glorify Him best. Kids should not be more harmed by technology than they already have been, so we as Christians should educate ourselves on how to raise children so that they may develop as well as possible to glorify God.

Plans: I am thrilled to be attending Samford University in the fall to study graphic design and marketing!

Prayer Requests: Please pray for me and my classmates as we deal with the effects of the Coronavirus on our senior year, and that it will not affect our transitions into college greatly. Please also pray for me to stay rooted in Christ throughout all the ups and downs college will bring, and that God will grant me his wisdom and peace throughout it all!

“Train up a child in the way he should go, so that when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6


Patra Grace Goforth

Ultimate Hope

Thesis Statement: Although hope is in religion, life on earth, and help in psychotherapy, the ultimate hope is found only in God.

Brief Description: In times of crisis, people lose hope. Media, food, sleep, lectures, walks, and several other activities and ideas spark inspiration again for those who’ve lost hope. However, hope found from the earth isn’t perfect. People are still suffering because this world is fallen. The only place to receive ultimate hope, unfailing and permanent, is through Christ.

Plans: The medical field is where I’ve envisioned myself since a young age. I will strive to study in the pre-medical field at Mississippi College, and I hope to glorify God doing it. I desire to give others healthy lives and support them in any way I can.

Prayer Requests: During this pandemic, hope is needed much more. People lose motivation, relationships, and security during crises like this. I want to pray for everyone who may be in despair at this time or under great stress. God is near and with us even during the harshest times.

“We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain.” Hebrews 6:19


Elizabeth Ann Hickman

The Extent of Man’s Best Friend

Thesis Statement: Animal therapy, specifically with dogs, should be encouraged as a means of practical treatment since dogs scientifically, emotionally, and spiritually aid us and promote our calling as humans to cultivate the earth and all it contains.

Brief Description: My speech focuses on the amazing human to dog relationship and the benefits from using it as therapy.  Dogs scientifically are wired to aid us people, emotionally created to be with us, and spiritually reveal our calling as believers and heavenly attributes of our God.  Dogs are a gift with which the Lord has blessed us!

Plans: I plan to attend the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and pursue a degree in nursing.

Prayer Requests: Please pray for wisdom and peace as I transition into the next phase of life.  Also, prayers that my classmates and I will be bold in our faith wherever the Lord has us next year would be greatly appreciated.

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1


Justice Striven Ivers

Why Banning Guns is Not the Solution

Thesis Statement: Gun control is not a good solution to deaths caused by guns, and is a lot less effective than many may think.

Brief Description: I am giving this speech on why Gun Control is not a valid solution to the many murders and suicides done by guns. It would cost us our freedom, and will not work as well as people think.

Plans: I have enlisted in the United States Marine Corps.

Prayer Requests: That I will have the motivation needed to be the best I can in basic training and what comes after.

“If a thief is caught breaking in at night and is struck a fatal blow, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed.” Exodus 22:2

Hannah Jordan

Deaf Education

Thesis Statement: Although all vaguely the same, the schooling methods of oral, mainstream, and residential each have various pro’s and con’s that one must consider when debating the topic. The question is, what makes one education system better than another? After extensive research of the three schooling methods, it has become clear that oral schools are the best option when it comes to the education of the deaf community.

Brief Description: My speech is about a topic that is dear to my heart. In my speech I explore the different educational systems for deaf children. I go through each system and explain the good and bad things that they have to offer. In the end, I come to the conclusion that one system is superior to the others.

Plans: After I graduate, I plan to attend the Honors School at the University of Memphis.

Prayer Requests: I would greatly appreciate it if the Westminster family could pray for a smooth transition into college from highschool; including peace in this stressful time, and security in my decisions.

“Let the little children come to me and do not try to stop them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” Luke 18:16


Jacob Dawson Keith

Reducing Crime and Reforming Criminal Justice

Thesis Statement: Can our system be improved upon, and if so, how? I contend that it can, according to what is just. This includes policing to enforce our laws, sentencing reform to ensure proportional punishment, and rehabilitation to diminish repeated offenses; we must further guard against both over legalization and over prohibition.

Brief Description: My speech asserts that, while perfection is unattainable, improvements can be made to our criminal justice system. I define and articulate what is just through policy initiatives that truly work, and others that don’t.

Plans: After graduating I plan on attending The King’s College in New York City, where I’ll major in Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE).

Prayer Requests: Please pray for the wide range of levels of sadness and anxiety that people are experiencing right now, from death and illness, to job loss, to loss of a fourth quarter.

"Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.  Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended.  For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.  Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.  This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor." Romans 13:1-7


George Andrew Myers

How Divorce Affects Children

Thesis Statement: Will a divorce and separation of the family negatively affect the wellbeing of the child? Absolutely. Through the overwhelming amount of evidence presented through my research, I have come to the conclusion that divorce is without a doubt one of the worst things that can happen in a child’s tender development. This effect happens in three main categories. The first is the emotional aspect. Divorce affects a child’s immediate and long term emotions for the worse, increasing sadness, anger, and distrust tenfold. The second is physical impairments. Divorce affects the physical health and wellbeing of the child. The final and possibly most dangerous is the psychological effects. Children of divorce are scarred and left with horrible social disorders such as ADHD, bipolar disorder, and clinical depression.

Brief Description: As we move further and further into the recesses of a postmodern, post-God society, and grappling with the massive shifts in technology, we are dealing with crises along every aspect of society, one of the most important being the family. As our family structures dissolve, we have to ask ourselves how exactly we are affecting the next generation. My speech will outline and discuss the physical, psychological, and emotional consequences of divorce.

Plans: I plan on studying medicine at either the University of Memphis or Rhodes College.

Prayer Requests: Please pray for my college decision and future.

“Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.” Psalm 27:10


Grayson Matthew Nelms

Why we should switch from combustion cars to electric cars

Thesis Statement: Society should switch from combustion cars to more modern electric vehicles for 3 reasons: they cost less, are safe for the environment, and are continually improving with large advances in technology

Brief Description: My speech discusses the advantages and disadvantages of electric cars compared to gas cars. Most people don’t consider electric cars to be a real option, but they actually are cheaper in the long run, and can be even more convenient for a typical person. With this major benefit along with other advantages, such as being safer for the environment, the choice seems clear.

Plans: I am attending the University of Memphis, with plans to major in Physics with a concentration in material sciences.

Prayer Requests: For a great transition to college and that the large amounts of work I will face won’t be overwhelming.

“The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants. Throughout the country that you hold as a possession, you must provide for the redemption of the land.” Leviticus 25:23-24


Harrison Ashley Ray

America’s Just War Theory Has Gone Too Far

Thesis Statement: We must not allow people or politics to interfere with our soldiers and place too many restrictions upon men doing their jobs such as what happened in Vietnam and The War on Terror. We must fix these issues by allowing people to do their jobs.

Brief Description: America has taken the Just War Theory too far with progressive political thought. This has caused the deaths of many and has resulted in botched military attempts that have hurt our country. This issue must be fixed.

Plans: I am going to Mississippi College for Business Administration with hopes to pursue real estate

Prayer Requests: That everything gets back to normal soon.

“For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword in vain. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath, to bring punishment to the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:4


Rachel Semos

The Solace of Solitude

Thesis Statement: It takes acceptance, suffering, and faith in God to learn how to turn loneliness into a benefit for your mental health.

Brief Description: My speech will cover the journey of learning how to cope with the feelings of loneliness and use them to grow closer to God.

Plans: I plan on attending Maryville College and pursuing a major in Psychology and a minor in Criminal Justice.

Prayer Requests: Please pray for my family as they help me cross the next stepping stone in my life. Also pray that I am able to remain focused and driven in college.

“Be strong. Be brave. Be fearless. You are never alone.” Joshua 1:9


William Jeffrey Tusant

The Benefits of Space Exploration

Thesis Statement: Humans will benefit from investment in space exploration. Firstly, we will satisfy our natural urge to explore creation, secondly, we can solve the problem of scarcity of materials and resources on earth, and thirdly, we will solve problems that lead to new developments and technologies that improve life.

Brief Description: In this speech I argue why we need to return to space because of the benefits that it will afford. I also argue why it is worth money and risk to go to space for research and exploration.

Plans: After Westminster I plan to go to the University of Memphis or Middle Tennessee State University to study flight programs to eventually become a professional pilot.

Prayer Requests: Pray for me to lean into God during this new transition with all the unknown future ahead. 

"Lift up your eyes on high, And see who has created these things, who brings out their host by number; He calls them all by name, by the greatness of His might And the strength of His power; not one is missing.” Isaiah 40:26


Christley Renée Vaughn

Battle of the Sexes: Who the Bible Says Is Right

Thesis Statement: In an attempt to be on equal footing with men, women have lost sight of the beautiful design and role God their creator has assigned them, and in the process have also devalued the role of men.

Brief Description: Today I will be discussing how we as Believers can best live out “the Christian life” when arguing gender roles.  This is not just a secular theory; it is a topic found throughout the Bible.  This speech will discuss the ways in which women, through the feminist movement, have lost sight of their design, how the role of men has been devalued in today’s culture, and finally what true femininity and masculinity look like in Christ.

Plans: After Graduation I plan to attend Covenant College to continue my pursuit of Christ and to major in Sociology with a concentration in Family Studies.

Prayer Requests: I have never lived in another state, moved houses, or changed schools, so attending a college five hours away and in another state is a big step for me.  Pray that God will give me courage as I venture into this personal unknown.

“Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.” 1 Peter 3:7


David Weaver

Rebuilding the unity of our nation, starting with fruitful communities.

Thesis Statement: It’s something we see consistently, our local communities are divided over politics. While many different factors are needed to close this divide, the precedent begins with the people themselves. By becoming aware of how politics can divide us, prioritizing our faith over politics, and realizing that we should start at the local level to help fix this problem, we can begin to rebuild the unity of our nation.

Brief Description: With a nation so politically polarized at the national level, it’s no wonder that our local communities are divided as well over politics. While the answer to this solution will be challenging, it won’t come from a change at the national level. Instead, the change comes within the individual. As we become involved within our communities, we can begin to work from ground up to unify our nation.

Plans: I plan on attending the University of Tennessee and majoring in business.

Prayer Requests: That Coronavirus doesn’t keep us from college in the fall.

“Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.” Psalm 146:3


Ella Lillian Wilson

Fighting against Sexual Assault

Thesis Statement: In His word, God addresses the sin of sexual assault by challenging its normalization, victim-blaming, and lack of protection for the most vulnerable.

Brief Description: In our society, the number of sexual assault and rape cases is constantly rising, specifically on college campuses. This is a problem that should alarm everyone and cause people to take action, but it doesn’t. The victims of these cases rarely get the justice they deserve and that needs to change.

Plans: After graduation I plan on attending the University of Memphis to study Psychology

Prayer Requests: I ask for prayers as I go off to college that my faith in the Lord would stay strong and that I would continue to serve and love him.

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:12