Students from around the Kenai Peninsula gathered in Soldotna on Thursday to celebrate their graduation from Connections — the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District home-school program.
More than 100 students from communities throughout the peninsula graduated from the program this year. Principal Richard Bartolowits said during the ceremony the school’s ability to serve students from across the borough has pros and cons. On one hand, the program is able to support students from all over, but on the other hand, he said he meets most students for the first time during graduation.
“Something I’ve learned over the years is that every person has a story,” Bartolowits said. “These things that we see our students do is only part of a story. Everyone here today followed a different path, and that goes for our graduates and everyone else in the room. Even though our paths were different … we all made it here.”
As students appeared on stage to receive their diplomas, Bartolowits spoke about each graduate’s interests, their time in high school or future plans. Post-high school plans ranged from four-year universities, to mission work, to vocational school, to entering the workforce.
Recognized as class valedictorians were Dakotah Buhr, Koda Poulin, Naomi Frederickson, Alexis Miller, Victoria Duggan, Alectra Miller, Deborah Weisser, Sequoia Craven, Olivia Cunningham, Sarah Trefren and Jasper Dundas.
At one point during the ceremony, the auditorium filled with the voices of audience members, who sang along with graduate Ndea Rollins while she performed a rendition of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
“I’m playing this song for somebody today and, if you know it, I would love for you to sing it with me,” Rollins said.
Graduate Justin Trail, who plans to attend Liberty University to study worship leadership, took time during Thursday’s ceremony to thank his family for their support throughout his high school career.
“I’m pretty sure I have the best parents ever,” Trail said. “They always told me that I could do anything I set my mind to. Whenever I wanted to start something new, they would never instill in my mind that I would fail — unless it was an argument with them, of course.”
Weisser, who was also identified as a class valedictorian, was recognized by the Homer Elks Lodge, which awarded her a $2,000 scholarship, during the ceremony. Weisser plans to pursue an associate degree at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kachemak Bay campus and then a bachelor’s degree in nursing out of state.
Also in attendance at Thursday’s ceremony were KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland, Director of Communications Pegge Erkeneff and Board of Education members Matt Morse and Penny Vadla.
Connections Homeschool’s 2022 commencement ceremony can be streamed in full on the school’s Facebook page.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Koda Poulin *
Briana Louise Theel
Myah Monicken *