For Nikiski High School’s graduating class of 2019, the excitement of being done with high school was palpable. Some are leaving the state to pursue further education, some are heading north to the oil fields and others are sticking around to join the local workforce.
And even though their futures might look very different, these kids have spent years together inside the classrooms and out, and the thought of no longer seeing their friends every day made the evening a little bittersweet for many of the 54 seniors who graduated on Monday night in front of a packed gymnasium.
During her speech, class salutatorian Bethany Carstens spoke about staying in touch with her classmates as they enter the next chapters of their lives.
“It is sad that we will go our separate ways, but I’m excited for each of you and excited to see where life takes us,” Carstens said.
Carstens also talked about the uncertainty of life and thanked her teachers, family and friends for preparing her for the future, no matter what it holds.
“I wish I could thank all of you, because everyone had an impact on my life,” Carstens said. “But that would take hours, and I know we just want to graduate already.”
Valedictorian Garrett Ellis centered his speech around never forgetting the past as well as the importance of being kind. Ellis used his uncles as an example of the selfless kindness that he hopes to carry with him into the future and talked about how, when he was younger, they would stay up late and watch movies with him when he needed a friend.
“As I look back on those nights, I only now see how boring that must have been for them,” Ellis said. “But it’s that type of kindness that changes lives and changes the world. The type of kindness where we sacrifice what we want for what others need.”
Ellis also reminded his classmates to remember their roots as they journey out into the world.
“Wherever you go in the world and whatever you do, don’t forget the small town of Nikiski where you grew up,” Ellis said.
After the ceremony and in between obligatory family photos, some of the graduates spoke about their plans now that high school is over. Daemeion Gahm already has a job lined up on the slope with Steelhead Oilfield Supply. For him the most exciting part about graduation is “that I’m outta here!”
Several students intend to pursue further education within Alaska, including Cody Handley, who will be attending Kenai Peninsula College for a process technology degree, and Thomas Halliday who plans to get a computer science degree from the University of Alaska Anchorage. For both of them, not seeing their friends every day will be the toughest part of leaving high school.
Hannah Young will be sticking around the state for a few more years attending the University of Alaska Fairbanks, but she plans to eventually transfer to Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, to get a degree in intercultural studies — and has every intention to keep playing the trumpet through college. Young said she wants to travel the world doing mission work but will miss her friends and being rooted in Nikiski.
Jace Kornstad, on the other hand, is headed straight down to St. Paul, Minnesota, to play basketball at the University of Northwestern and obtain a degree in criminal justice.
“I don’t know what I’ll do after that, but I’m just gonna see where life takes me,” Kornstad said.
Student Body President Alie Minium summed up the sentiment of the evening during her opening speech with a line she borrowed from her brother’s speech, given years ago in the same gymnasium: