Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Richele McGahan adjusts the pins in Victoria Cizek's hair moments before they joined their two fellow senior classmates to walk into their graduation ceremony Sunday, May 8, 2016 at Cook Inlet Academy in Soldotna, Alaska. The school had a smaller graduating class than usual, with only four high school seniors.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Richele McGahan adjusts the pins in Victoria Cizek's hair moments before they joined their two fellow senior classmates to walk into their graduation ceremony Sunday, May 8, 2016 at Cook Inlet Academy in Soldotna, Alaska. The school had a smaller graduating class than usual, with only four high school seniors.

Cook Inlet grads recall unique education

Always an intimate affair, this year’s Cook Inlet Academy graduation ceremony was smaller than usual, with four graduating seniors being honored.

The students graduated in front of family and friends at the school Sunday. Afterward, they celebrated the milestone in the gymnasium where they had each set up their own table and memory board showcasing their achievements while attending the school.

The four graduates described their relationship like that of a family and sprinkled the ceremony with personal touches from performed songs to a slideshow showing how they have grown through the years.

Victoria Cizek, who sang one song with her younger sister and another on her own, is headed to Northwest Christian University in Oregon.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone there,” she said. “I’m going to be pursuing a degree in music industry and worship arts, so I’m excited for all the live sets and things I’m going to learn about that … and then hopefully bringing all of that back here.”

Cizek said it’s important to her to give back to the community she was raised in, even if she doesn’t end up living in the Kenai-Soldotna area.

“This community has invested so much into who I am,” she said.

Connor Leaf of Kenai said he is excited to go on a new adventure at Multnomah University in Oregon, where he will play soccer and study English. The teachers at Cook Inlet Academy are among the many things he’ll remember about his time there, he said.

“People here are like a second family,” Leaf said. “It’s an amazing place. I’m so, so thankful that I’ve gone here since first grade.”

Sydney Carey, also of Kenai, is headed to Anchorage to attend the Trend Setters School of Beauty for cosmetology.

“I decided on that because it’s really what I love to do,” she said. “I like making people smile.”

The close friends and people who helped her along the way are something Carey said she will miss as well.

Richele McGahan, from the Kalifornsky Beach Road area, plans to enroll in some classes at Kenai Peninsula College while she decides exactly what she’d like to study in college. She remembered the unique tight-knit atmosphere of Cook Inlet Academy. Whenever a student is having a bad day or going through something difficult, both teachers and students rally around them, McGahan said.

Moving into the adult chapter of her life is what most excites McGahan about graduating high school, she said.

“It’s our choices and it’s our lives now,” she said. “You know, if we mess up, it’s our mistake.”

 

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Richele McGahan stops to hug her mother while walking into her graduation ceremony Sunday, May 8, 2016 at Cook Inlet Academy in Soldotna, Alaska. The school had a smaller graduating class than usual, with only four high school seniors.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Richele McGahan stops to hug her mother while walking into her graduation ceremony Sunday, May 8, 2016 at Cook Inlet Academy in Soldotna, Alaska. The school had a smaller graduating class than usual, with only four high school seniors.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Victoria Cizek performs the second of two songs for friends and family gathered at her graduation ceremony Sunday, May 8, 2016 at Cook Inlet Academy in Soldotna, Alaska. The school had a smaller graduating class than usual, with only four high school seniors.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion Victoria Cizek performs the second of two songs for friends and family gathered at her graduation ceremony Sunday, May 8, 2016 at Cook Inlet Academy in Soldotna, Alaska. The school had a smaller graduating class than usual, with only four high school seniors.

More in News

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River dipnetting closed; Kasilof to close Sunday

The Kasilof River dipnet fishery is reportedly slow, but fish are being caught

Silver salmon hang in the Seward Boat Harbor during the 2018 Seward Silver Salmon Derby. (Photo courtesy of Seward Chamber of Commerce)
Seward Silver Salmon derby runs Aug. 13-21

Last year’s derby featured 1,800 contestants competing across eight days

Rayna Reynolds tends to her cow at the 4-H Agriculture Expo in Soldotna, Alaska on Aug. 5, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Animals take the stage at 4-H expo

Contestants were judged on the quality of the animal or showmanship of the handler

Emily Matthews and Andy Kowalczyk pose outside the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies headquarters on Friday, July 29, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Charlie Menke/Homer News)
AmeriCorps volunteers aid Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies

The 10-month commitment pushed them outside of comfort zones

People gather in Ninilchik, Alaska, on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, for Salmonfest, an annual event that raises awareness about salmon-related causes. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
All about the salmon

Fish, love and music return to Ninilchik

Alaska State Veterinarian Dr. Bob Gerlach gives a presentation on Avian Influenza Virus at the 4-H Agriculture Expo in Soldotna, Alaska, on Aug. 5, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
State looks to outreach, education amid bird flu outbreak

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is spreading in Alaska

Fencing surrounds the 4th Avenue Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. Demolition will begin in August 2022 on the once-opulent downtown Anchorage movie theater designed by the architect of Hollywood’s famed Pantages Theatre. The 4th Avenue Theatre with nearly 1,000 seats opened in 1947, and it withstood the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Efforts fail to save historic Anchorage theater from demolition

Anchorage entrepreneur Austin “Cap” Lathrop opened the 4th Avenue Theatre, with nearly 1,000 seats, on May 31, 1947

Mimi Israelah, center, cheers for Donald Trump inside the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage, Alaska, during a rally Saturday July 9, 2022. Two Anchorage police officers violated department policy during a traffic stop last month when Israelah, in town for a rally by former President Donald Trump showed a “white privilege card” instead of a driver’s license and was not ticketed. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)
Alaska officers violated policy in ‘white privilege’ stop

The top of the novelty card reads: “White Privilege Card Trumps Everything.”

Ashlyn O’Hara / Peninsula Clarion file 
Alaska LNG Project Manager Brad Chastain presents information about the project during a luncheon at the Kenai Chamber Commerce and Visitor Center on July 6.
Local leaders voice support for LNG project

Local municipalities are making their support for the Alaska LNG Project known

Most Read