Connections Homeschool Principal Doug Hayman welcomes attendees to the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Connections Homeschool Principal Doug Hayman welcomes attendees to the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

‘Expect a lot from yourself and from others’

Connections Homeschool students accept diplomas at commencement ceremony

The Soldotna High School auditorium was packed on Thursday evening, where students from around the Kenai Peninsula converged to celebrate their graduation from Connections, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s home-school program. With the rear rows reduced to standing room only, nearly 70 graduates participated in the ceremony.

Connections Principal Doug Hayman opened the ceremony by introducing himself and acknowledging the lead role that graduates and their parents have taken to get to commencement.

“I use the term administrator tangentially because you, out there in the audience, you are the principal, you’re the teacher, the custodian, the cook, the counselor and, at times, psychologist, the law enforcement, the bus driver, and I recognize the role that the family plays in home-school and would like to honor that,” Hayman said.

Hayman told graduates to dream big.

“Expect a lot,” he said. “Expect a lot from yourself and from others. Your goals should be lofty. Please do not settle and do not aim low. The old saying about shooting for the moon is true — aim for the moon, because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”

Because Connections doesn’t have a separate awards ceremony, numerous graduates were recognized for scholarships and other honors during the ceremony. Scholarships awarded Thursday came from the Alaska Peace Officers Association, the Fraternal Order of the Eagles Auxiliary, the Kenai Peninsula masons, the Soldotna Chamber and the Peninsula Oilers Booster Club, among others.

As is Connections’ tradition, parents were able to present their graduates with diplomas. Not all Connections Homeschool graduates participated in Thursday’s ceremony. Those who did were given the opportunity to address attendees.

Seward graduate Aaron Smith, who plans to continue education in Montana or California, thanked his family for their support and for giving him a name that is easy to pronounce.

“Thank you to my family, I couldn’t have gotten here without you,” Smith said.

Homer graduate Jenna Lapp, who plans to take a medical assistance class in the fall and then work to become a travel nurse, congratulated her fellow graduates. Lapp also said she is thankful to be wearing her Native regalia and to be celebrating her graduation alongside her family.

“A huge congratulations to everyone and a reminder that you’re on Native land,” Lapp said.

Layla Triem, also a graduate from Homer, recited Psalm 73:26 and shared words of encouragement to her fellow graduates. Triem plans to continue studying the Bible after graduation, in addition to teaching a tae kwon do class and leading a Bible study for young women.

“As you graduate and step into the beginning of the rest of your life, please remember that you can breathe,” Triem said. “Jesus has already won. In this present age, you’re fighting a battle, but we can fight knowing that the war is already won.”

Attendees were also treated to a piano performance by Bella Kaliberda of Miroslava Sentürk’s “Mother’s Melody,” in addition to a senior slideshow.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

Spring graduates

Abigail Adam^

Elizabeth Adam^

Haley Akee^

Lawson Alexson-Walls^

Nora Andrews^+

Minadora Anufriev

Dylan Arno^

Hannah Autry

Lay’la Baker

Joseph Barone^

Anatoly Basargin

Ryan Baughn^

Nolan Boehme#

Haven Bower

Cole Brand#

Jaxson Brophy

Niles Broussard

Ashton Brown^

Mya Brown^

Michaela Browning#

Hannah Butler^

Jacob Christensen^

Sylvia Clemens

Troy Cotton-Wood^

Kaia Cournoyer^

Katelyn Cowdrey^

Laredo Craven#

Auden Cress#+^

Ryleigh Cummings

Ryder Cunningham*

Brooke Dambacher#^

Benjamin Dickson^

Emily Duffield

Meaghan Dyson

Wesley Earll^

Lilliana Fisk

Enoch Frederickson#^

Nolan Freeman^

Charisma Fulk^

Noelani Fullerton^

Alexandria Gahm^

Natalya Gallentine^

Dylan Gardner^

Evelyn Giver

Zachory Goss

Joy Haerle

Victor Haerle

Trajan Haley^

Dustin Hamilton^

Paige Hammerle^

Owen Hart

Walter Haybeck

Cody Henley

Simon Holman

Kyler Howell

Riley Huffman

Taylor Hutchinson

Matthew Hyatt^

Haley-Sue Inman^

Kyeson Johnson

Jon Johnson#

Josie Josephson+^

Bella Kaliberda*^

Tustin Keller^

Nikolay Knutson^

Juliette Kuzmin

Destiny Langston

Jenna Lapp^

Morgan Lemm^

Hannah Lowe^

Caitlyn Martin^#

Alexis Martinez^

Hayden Matthews^

Ava Mayzsak^

Jace Meehan^

Savannah Mickel^

Cassius Miller^

Tristen Morris^

Fisher Mosher

Golden Musgrave

Grayden Musgrave

Sylus Pannell^

Brooke Parker^

Kaelan Peterson

Graciana Phillips

Hannah Phipps^

Jackson Pietsch#

Gideon Plate

Max Reese!

Lydia Reutov

Grace Richmond^

Abbey Robertson

Layla Rollins

Nathaniel Romero^

Athena Rossiter

Pearl Sayler^

Heinrich Scheer^

Audrie Schock^

Gideon Schrock^

Gautoma Schuett-Iwamura

Allikzandra Seavey

Timothy Shackelford

Randall Shaw

Adam Smircich*

Aaron Smith^

Taylor Smith^

Tristan Smith

Anna Socha#

Austin Sorhus

Andrew Stassen^!

Kevin Steger

Miles Strickland

Megan Stuber^

Kelly Super^*

Ethan Tree

Lion Trejo

Layla Triem^*

Riley Tucker^

Caleb Tugan^

Taylor Turner^

Macy Waarvik*

Anne’Cecilia Wilson

Lorenzo Wilson

Rinoa Woods

Abigail Youngberg^#

Ezekiel Yragui

Mary Zaukar

Early grads

Lexa Adami

Luke Nelson^

Carly Nelson^

Ireland Styvar

KEY

^ walked on Thursday

# Graduating Cum Laude

* Graduating Magna Cum Laude

! Graduating Suma Cum Laude

+ National Honor Society member

Connections Homeschool graduate Aaron Smith addresses attendees at the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Connections Homeschool graduate Aaron Smith addresses attendees at the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula Director of Information Services Eric Soderquist (left) and school board member Diane MacRae (center) congratulate graduates during Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula Director of Information Services Eric Soderquist (left) and school board member Diane MacRae (center) congratulate graduates during Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Connections Homeschool graduate Jenna Lapp addresses attendees at the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Connections Homeschool graduate Jenna Lapp addresses attendees at the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Connections Homeschool graduate Layla Triem addresses attendees at the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Connections Homeschool graduate Layla Triem addresses attendees at the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates listen to Connections Homeschool Principal Doug Hayman speak during the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates listen to Connections Homeschool Principal Doug Hayman speak during the school’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates celebrate with their friends and loved ones after Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates celebrate with their friends and loved ones after Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates celebrate with their friends and loved ones after Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates celebrate with their friends and loved ones after Connections Homeschool’s commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District school board member Dianne MacRae (center) joins graduates for cake after Connections Homeschool’s 2024 commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District school board member Dianne MacRae (center) joins graduates for cake after Connections Homeschool’s 2024 commencement ceremony on Thursday, May 16, 2024 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

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