For many of the 21 graduating seniors of Kenai Alternative High School, their place of learning doubled as a second home. The school gave the students freedom to go at their own pace while completing the credits necessary for a high school diploma, and the relaxed and close-knit environment of the school allowed these kids to learn and grow where they may have struggled elsewhere.
2019 graduate Clifton Etter found his way to Kenai from Durango, Colorado, after aging out of the foster care system, and he referred to his years spent at Kenai Alt as “the best time of my life.” Etter said he had poor educational experiences prior to attending Kenai Alt, and to him the school was more than just a collection of teachers and students. It was a family. Etter plans to start looking for jobs now that he has graduated and hopes to save up his money to attend the Stunt Performers Academy in Los Angeles, eventually fulfilling his lifelong dream of being a professional stuntman.
Paige Cruse has lived in the area since she was little and her family moved from Kalispell, Montana. Cruse transferred to Kenai Alt in December because the other schools in the area just weren’t the right fit.
“This place is just different than the bigger schools,” Cruse said. “Here I was treated as a person instead of a number.”
Cruse received the “Balancing Act” Award during the graduation ceremony for juggling a job and nursing classes at KPC during her senior year, and her balancing act paid off. Cruse recently graduated from KPC as a certified nursing assistant and plans to start working at the hospital before eventually becoming an RN.
Hope Hoadley moved to Kenai from Wasilla in September after being told by her other schools that she wouldn’t be graduating this year. Hoadley said she felt welcome on her first day at Kenai Alt, and they helped her prove the other schools wrong. Now, Hoadley is on her way to the Alaska Job Corps Center in Palmer to pursue a career in the culinary arts.
Michael Metz was home-schooled before he started attending Kenai Alt, and he said he wouldn’t have had as much success if he attended any other school.
“The Kenai Alt has done more than help me graduate,” Metz said in his speech during the ceremony. “It’s helped me figure out what I want to do with my life.”
Metz received a handful of awards and scholarships during the ceremony, including the Most Outstanding Student Award from the local Masonic Lodge and a scholarship from UAA for over $11,000. In less than two weeks, Metz will be attending boot camp for the Marine Corps Reserve before returning to start classes at KPC. His long-term goal is to eventually become a lawyer for the Marine Corps.
All of the 2019 graduates were recognized with individual awards during the ceremony that ranged from sincere — such as the “Perseverance” award given to India Bates for overcoming adversities during her academic career — to the silly, with Josh Gonion receiving the “Apple” award for eating an apple every single morning of senior year.