For many of Kenai Alternative’s 32 seniors, graduating high school has not always been a guarantee.
Conflict at home, low grades, disliking school and getting involved in prohibited activities led to difficulties keeping up with credits and falling behind. Once they signed up for the alternative school, the struggling students were able to turn things around with help from supportive staff and finding motivation within themselves.
School Secretary Phyllis Halstead mentioned Matthew Evans during the ceremony as one pupil she was particularly unsure if he would graduate, but who proudly donned a blue cap and gown Wednesday evening.
Evans previously attended Kenai Central High School before heading into town for his education at Kenai Alternative. He said he got into some trouble at his old school and wasn’t making up enough credits to stay on track. Teachers provide more specific attention to making sure students catch up at Kenai Alternative and he feels more prepared to deal with life after high school, he said.
Now he has some advice for the kids coming up behind him.
“Stay on track do what you are supposed to do and get it done, and here you can do it really fast,” Evans said. “Just stay focused.”
Sitting next to Evans before the ceremony, Melissa Bower said the extra classes and individual attention students receive at Kenai Alternative can help speed things along for students who want to finish school sooner.
For some students, they weren’t necessarily in a rush to leave and claim their time at the alternative school as one of their most significant experiences.
Bower’s peer Kody Vaught said “walking off with a crisp, new high school diploma in my hands” marks the end of the best two years of his life and the best he’s ever felt about himself. He went from failing grades during his freshmen and sophomore years to maintaining a 3.5 GPA average at Kenai Alternative.
Christian Wall said his three semesters at the school were the best of his career in secondary education. When he was at Nikiski High School, he said he never would have guessed he would end up at Kenai Alternative because he gave his older brothers such a hard time about taking classes there, but if it wasn’t for the school staff and Principal Loren Reese, he was not sure where he would be today.
“I am really proud to be a graduate of Kenai Alternative,” he said.
Shena Shuravloff also previously attended Nikiski High School.
“I guess I didn’t like it so much there, so I didn’t like going,” Shurauloff said.
The smaller classes and respect from her new teachers at Kenai Alternative completely changed how Shuravloff felt about going to school. She and her classmates are suddenly treated like adults. Everyone can work at their own paces, taking things slower when life demands more, or faster when they just want to get things done, she said.
At Kenai Alternative, it isn’t just about the education — it also becomes about “proving to yourself that you can do it even if you didn’t think you could,” Shuravloff said.
Many others were able to find the same motivation.
Squished next to Shuravloff on a classroom couch before the ceremony began, he friend Shawnee Phillips said she has always liked the laid back atmosphere of the school and that she is held more accountable on a daily basis.
At her old school, Kenai Central High School, she rarely went to her classes, but at the alternative school, if students skip class they are kicked out.
Jacy Rouse said seeing how invested her teachers are in her own success was what helped her take more of an interest in her academics.
The educators call home if someone misses class, worry about the kids’ personal lives and help buy clothes and track down necessary items if the student is having trouble getting those things themselves, she said.
“It really helped me pull my head out of my butt and get myself going,” Rouse said.
Travis Pharris said before his teachers at Kenai Central High School weren’t really there to help and he just always felt like no more than a student to them. He said his graduating class came together before graduation for a final photograph taken by Halstead that will make its way to hang onto the office wall.
“If you graduate here, you never really leave,” Pharris said.
Joel Stockton learned at Kenai Alternative that if he wants something bad enough, with hard work, anything can happen. To his fellow classmates and students following in the hallways after him, he too had a few words.
“Live to your full potential and always do that homework,” he said.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at email@example.com.
Mark Urgel Aguilar
Melissa Michele Bower
Taylor Nelle Burke
Matthew C. Evans
Sebastian Raymond Farnam
Tristin Robert Glonek
Marissa Lynn Goode
Harley Dalton Hill
Devin J Hoffman
Dakotah Ray Horton
Chase Hunter Todd Logan
Jade Destiney McCauley
Christa Nicole McGahan
Dawson James Miller
Max Benjamin Miller
Morgan Alexandria Mosiman
Jennaka Melyn Papp
Steven Thomas Parazoo
Devin Jonathan Peterson
Travis James Pharris
Shawnee Lisandra Phillips
Chase Preston Poole
Maria De La Luz Robles
Jacy Dawn Rouse
Shena Ann Shuravloff
Joel Ryan Stockton
Kody Lee Vaught
Christian Parker Wall
Brian Thomas Wallace
Kelsey Noel Wik
Jacob Lee Winch