Before they all walked away with a diploma Tuesday, the administrators at Kenai Alternative High School made sure each of the students felt individually recognized.
Principal Loren Reese and School Secretary Jacquelynn Tomrdle handed out awards at the beginning of the ceremony in categories fitted to each specific student — from the “Down to the Wire” award for a student who squeaked in his last graduation requirement to the “Celine Dion” award for a student who was often heard singing.
It’s an annual tradition for the alternative high school, which offers flexible scheduling for students who struggle in the traditional high school environment. This year’s graduating class of 23 students worked through an array of different life circumstances on their way to the graduation stage Tuesday.
“If not for Kenai Alt, I would not have graduated,” said Paige Reger, one of the graduates.
Soldotna High School was not right for her, she said. But the flexibility of the rotations at Kenai Alternative High School and the staff worked with her this year, and she’s walking away with a diploma.
The staff works with all the students, whether they need to come in late because of a job or coaching them through job applications, said graduate Larissa Pittman. Her plans after graduation include leaving the area, she said.
The high school yearbook features student artwork on the front and an entire page inside dedicated to students’ tattoos and piercings.
“It’s how we express ourselves,” Pittman said.
The high school is missing sports — something Reger said she wasn’t too upset about leaving behind when she left SoHi — and other events like prom. Pittman said the students went to the proms at the high schools they had come from.
The high school gymnasium was crowded with loudly cheering family and friends as the students entered for the ceremony. Amid the crowd were a number of toddlers, some of them the children of the students. Haley Miller said she worked on her high school diploma around a job and a 5-month-old daughter.
“(I) didn’t sleep much,” she said, tugging at her graduation tassel.
Just before the graduation ceremony, some of the graduates described the school as better than the high schools they’d come from, or glad to graduate. From the front row, graduate Jessie Metz answered, “Best school ever.”
Kenai Alternative High School 2018 graduates
Maximillian McCloud Baty
Joshua Ryan Campos