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.”