A Connections Home School graduate sports a decorated cap at her graduation ceremony Thursday at the Soldotna High School auditorium. (Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

A Connections Home School graduate sports a decorated cap at her graduation ceremony Thursday at the Soldotna High School auditorium. (Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Connections celebrates graduates

The Soldotna High School auditorium was filled with graduates who have never walked a hall together, but who celebrated their graduation from Connections Home School as a group on Thursday.

“If being raised an Alaskan home schooler has taught us anything, it’s been the value of hard work and toughing it out,” said Elisheba Smardo during one of the evening’s valedictorian speeches.

Throughout the ceremony, the individualized nature of the graduates’ schooling experience shone through. When receiving their diplomas, students’ parents were invited on stage to participate since they served as the primary educator, and Principal Rich Bartolowits took the opportunity to detail the graduates’ accomplishments and future goals.

Just as each student had a unique education, they each have unique post graduation plans.

“I’m going to go into heavy machinery, specializing in cranes in the oil field,” Klane Coad said. “I want to conquer my fear of heights and make tons of money at the same time.”

Some graduates plan on leaving Alaska.

“I signed with Valley City State University in North Dakota to run track and field there,” Bethany Coghill said. “My two teammates and best friends are also signed to go there too, so that’s exciting.”

And some graduates plan on serving their country.

“After graduation, I’m going to the United States Coast Guard Academy. I’m really excited about this next chapter,” Kane Graham said.

Other students plan to continue on their path, but with the accomplishment of having their high school education behind them.

“I plan on working locally at Redoubt Plumbing and Heating,” Thomas Burke said. “It’s a good job and right now I’m working part-time but I’ll go over to full-time after graduating.”

The graduation ceremony included several musical performances including one from Jillissa Caligan, who decided to perform a song routine in lieu of a valedictorian speech.

The 2017 graduating class of Connection includes Elisabeth Clay, Jaela Hubbard, Avery Mears, Shelby Noel, Emily Turman, Shayley Anderson, Kimberly Bales, David Barlow, Varnava Basargin, Vivea Basargin, Zoya Basargin, Preston Bicknell, Samuel Bogard, Grant Boyd, Ellimarie Bravo-Moe, Brittany Bucho, Thomas Burke, Jillissa Caligan, Klane Coad, Daniel Coe, Katherine Cooper, Braden Ellis, Cynthia Ellis, Sienna Escott, Trevor Fenex, Diana Gaedecke, Alexander George, Kane Graham, Alexandra Guthrie, Patrick Hannan, Tirzah Hardy, Shay Harju-Romey, Danielle Hills, Patrick Hinchman, Marissa Jackson, Robin Johnson, Carmen Kelly, Kalvin Kooly, Isabelle Lopez, Emma Lyons, Taylar Meehan, Thera Mullet, Patrick Napier, Elijah Newbern, John Ogle, Hoxie Parks, Saen Phillips, Madeline Pullman, Jessica Reser, Miriam Reser, Efrosinie Reutov, Feoktista Reutov, Alexandra Samoilov, Ethan Schrock, Dylan Schultz, Jake Seaman, Katya Selanoff, Elisheba Smardo Lydia Smardo, Paul Steffensen, Riley Swanson, Kendall Taplin, Tyler Veldstra, Trinity Walker, Juliette Weaver, Preston Weeks, Douglas Wrenn and William Yablonsky.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com

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