Students of Kenai Alternative High School celebrate graduation in their school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School celebrate graduation in their school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Alt grads take ownership of their lives, told ‘make it into something spectacular’

The school graduated 19 students Tuesday

In the Kenai Alternative High School gymnasium on Tuesday, 19 graduates were celebrated as unique individuals who claimed ownership over their lives and overcame challenges to close their high school careers, but also as valued members of the school’s tight-knit community.

Principal Kyle McFall led a ceremony colored by the school’s many traditions. He recognized each of the graduates individually, sharing stories of their time at the school, acknowledging the obstacles they overcame to arrive at graduation and the different pathways they each took to get there.

In describing each student, McFall defined the graduating class as intelligent, passionate, driven, creative, fiery and tough. Several students are graduating early, and many finished their coursework well ahead of Tuesday’s ceremony.

McFall also took time to recognize departing instructor Susie Byrne, who he said is retiring this year after more than 40 years in public education.

Student speaker Kayley Rogers said each of her peers had their own reason to attend Kenai Alternative, but they all shared a desire for quality education and the drive to see it completed.

“It’s a school for kids who take their life into their own hands and make it into something spectacular,” she said. “I’m honored to be standing up here talking on behalf of the Class of 2024, telling everyone that we made it. All the ups and downs we went through shaped us into the beautiful people we are today.”

McFall echoed that sentiment in his own remarks. He credited his students with taking ownership of their education. That requires, he said, accepting both successes and setbacks.

While speaking, Rogers championed Kenai Alternative for the opportunities it provided her personally and professionally. She took umbrage at other people’s misunderstandings and misconceptions about the school and its students.

“This is my normal,” she said. “I didn’t have football games or dances, but I got to build my career while still getting an education … this ‘special school’ got me into the University of Alaska Fairbanks.”

Their time at Kenai Alternative now closed, Rogers encouraged her peers to recognize everything they’ve been through as a community. As they cast their imaginations to the future, to “the bittersweet feeling of having to grow up,” she said they should “remember to celebrate tonight.”

McFall, similarly, told the students that their journeys still are only beginning. He encouraged them to continue to live their lives in a way that leads them to overcome challenges and resist the status quo — to find their “why” and let it drive them.

“Graduation is often viewed as the ultimate finish line,” he said. “Today is really just the beginning of many other things to come.”

At the ceremony’s close, before turning their tassels and throwing their caps into the air with a cheer, the graduates completed a final Kenai Alternative tradition. In receiving their diplomas, they were also given a bright yellow rose. They scattered into the crowd to deliver each rose to a person who supported them and played a role in getting them to Tuesday’s ceremony. Many of the roses were exchanged for a tight, teary-eyed embrace.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

Kenai Alternative High School 2024 graduates

Layla Allain

Samantha Boots

Caydne Bornowski

Joseph Desmidt

Levin Hendrickson

Wendall Kuzuguk

Malcolm Leach

Jacobee Longan-Chapman

Stryder Monsen

Sonia Montague

Jaxson Nunley

Jolene Riske

Dakari Robinson

Kayley Rogers

Danielle Thies

Diva Thies

Zach Welch

Nicki Wood

Ryan Yeager

Students of Kenai Alternative High School ready for a graduation ceremony in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School ready for a graduation ceremony in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School ready for a graduation ceremony in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School ready for a graduation ceremony in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School proceed into a graduation ceremony in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School proceed into a graduation ceremony in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Alternative High School Principal Kyle McFall honors retiring Susie Byrne during a graduation ceremony in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Alternative High School Principal Kyle McFall honors retiring Susie Byrne during a graduation ceremony in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Student speaker Kaylee Rogers addresses her class during a graduation ceremony at Kenai Alternative High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Student speaker Kaylee Rogers addresses her class during a graduation ceremony at Kenai Alternative High School in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School celebrate graduation in their school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School celebrate graduation in their school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School celebrate graduation in their school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School celebrate graduation in their school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School deliver roses to their supporters in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School deliver roses to their supporters in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School deliver roses to their supporters in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School deliver roses to their supporters in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School deliver roses to their supporters in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School deliver roses to their supporters in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School toss caps into the air at the conclusion of a graduation ceremony in their school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School toss caps into the air at the conclusion of a graduation ceremony in their school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School proceed into a graduation ceremony in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

Students of Kenai Alternative High School proceed into a graduation ceremony in the school’s gym in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)

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