Students in Kenai Central High School’s graduating class of 2017 toss their caps in the air at the end of their commencement ceremony Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Beth Ulricksen/Peninsula Clarion)

Students in Kenai Central High School’s graduating class of 2017 toss their caps in the air at the end of their commencement ceremony Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Beth Ulricksen/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School students exit stage left

Kenai Central High School’s six graduating valedictorians had more than 171,000 English words to choose from to describe their class. The one they chose?


“There is no better word for how we can describe how we lived this past year,” valedictorian Mara Youngren-Brown said with a broad smile.

The seniors delayed on assignments and suffered from a colossal case of senioritis, the valedictorians said, but they made it to the end anyway. The 118 red-clad graduates filled the stage of the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium on Wednesday night, many alongside friends they’d been with since elementary school. The six valedictorians — Youngren-Brown, Caleigh Jensen, Eric Kempf, Emily Koziczkowski, Makenzie Lindeman and Kyrsten Maxson — spelled out the word “procrastination” in their speech as an acronym describing the characteristics of their class, focusing on memories and opportunities in the future.

“We’ve been building relationships since we were in middle school,” Jensen said in her speech. “… Most importantly, the relationships we’ve made through the years have gotten us through the best and worst of times.”

Lindeman, who was designated as the senior class speaker, elicited some laughs as she recapped a number of memories throughout the class’s time at Kenai Central High School. Though many of those individual memories circulate around friends, sports events and fun, she reminded the other students that the future is going to be about more than fun.

“Tonight is a chance to take a turn and choose the right thing,” she said. “… We will be remembered for who we are as an individual.”

Despite their descriptions of procrastinating until the last moment, some seniors said their time in high school went too fast. Cy Dull and Max Cox met as soon as they entered high school as freshmen and stuck together to the end — they walked together up to the stage at graduation.

“It’s gone really fast,” Dull said.

After graduation, they’re both planning to stay in the Kenai area for at least a little while. Cox said he plans to take some time to sleep in before heading off for a mission through his church.

“I’m looking forward to relaxing,” he said.

Dull, who graduated with honors, plans to attend Kenai Peninsula College to study electrical engineering. Upon hearing this, graduate Connor Smith — who walked with Cox and Dull into the ceremony — perked up.

“That’s what I’m doing, too!” he said, extending a high-five to Dull.

Graduate Mariah Kjostad will stick around Kenai too, though she plans to continue her education through the University of Alaska Anchorage. Born in Soldotna but with Hawaiian family, she walked into the ceremony Wednesday with an elaborate grass garland, pieced together from real grasses her family shipped to her from the islands.

“I’m planning to study veterinary medicine,” she said.

Kenai Central High School student body president Tristan Landry opened the commencement ceremony by thanking a number of teachers, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District staff, Board of Education members, Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre. To the graduating class, he reminded them that the day was like a blank canvas.

“The blank canvas represents our lives — we can do anything with our lives,” he said.

The 2017 graduates include Celina Casares, Keira Stroh, Sierra Van Hatten, Andrew Agosti, Abigail Beck, Nicholas Beeson, Rebecca Blum, Kayla Booth, Savannah Boze, Kameron Brazell, Tristan Bulot, Brianna Bushnell, Patricia Mae Catacutan, McKenzie Caughran, Madison Chanley, Joslynn Chipman, Savannah Clark, Cameron Cole, Abigail Cox, Maximillian Cox, Lara Creighton, Austin Cronce, Kalvin Daniels, Kathryn Darch, Jonathan Delgado, Jared Duck, Cy Dull, Maxwell Dye, Devon Dyer, Shannon Esteban, Whitney Esteban, Jacob Fite, Jean Florio, Jaden Foglia, Clifford Frankson, Creig Garrett, Chase Gillies, Jaycob Goff, Paola Gonzalez, Lindsey Grisham, Emily Halstead, Jonathan Hawkins, Fionna Heath, Avery Hieber, Makenna Holly, Cassidy Holmes, Brandon Hopkins, Ryan Huerta, Joshua Jackman, Caleigh Jensen, John Johnson, Ryan Johnson, William Johnson, Thomas Kelly, Eric Kempf, Jacob Kilfoyle, Kathleen Kilfoyle, Jillian Kindred, Cierra King, Mariah Kjostad, Alexis Koroll, Emily Koziczkowski, Tristan Landry, Corvus Leavitt, Melanie Lee, Alec Levy-Canedo, Mackenzie Lindeman, Kassandra Lindsley, Attison Machen-Gray, Kyrsten Maxson, Breanna McConnell, JessiAnna McDonald, Keyshawn McEnerney, Blossom McGahan, Ian Mercado, Rebecca Miller, Isabella Missel, Samantha Morse, Mavra Oskolkoff, KathLynn Payton, Gavin Petterson, Hannah Phillips, Kelsey Pisa, Mikaela Pitsch, Kaden Pohl, Brentley Powell, Becki Power, Melanie-Lynee Rafferty, Phillip Rhodes, Baylee Roberts, Veronica Rogers, Ericka Saltenberger, Jessica Segura, Zackary Selinger, Connor Smith, Dai-Ana Smith, Chelsea Sorrels, Kevin Souders, Patrick Spotted Eagle-Wong, Janie Stem, Chase Stephens, Travis Stuller, Timothy Ticknor, Tabitha Uhlrich, Tyler Wait, Shanija Walters, Tristan Warner, Ellen Weaver, Rebekah Weeks, Ryan Williams, Julianne Wilson, Daniel Wolverton, Mara Youngren-Brown and Matthew Zorbas.

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