Kenai Central High School Principal Daniel Beck welcomes graduates and attendees to the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School Principal Daniel Beck welcomes graduates and attendees to the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

‘Make a great life’

Kenai Central High School graduates more than 75 students

More than 75 students graduated from Kenai Central High School during a Tuesday ceremony held in the school’s Renee C. Henderson Auditorium.

Honor graduate and National Honor Society member Julianna Hamilton, who provided opening remarks, said her graduating class has faced some unique challenges over the course of their high school career. The gap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, she said, catapulted them into leadership roles senior year, but the adversity has brought them closer together.

“It was the combination of all of these experiences that have shaped us into the resilient, unique and inspiring individuals that are standing triumphantly before you today,” Hamilton said.

Recognized as valedictorians were Andrea Cordero, Melita Efta, Summer Foster, Kaitlynn Gist, Tyler Hippchen, Sydney Johnson, Erin Koziczkowski, Elizabeth Moffett, Gabriella Tews and Phoebe Thomas. The group tag-teamed a single speech, which they described as a tribute to their teachers on behalf of the entire graduating class.

“The marvelous thing about high school is that it can be whatever you make of it,” said Gist. “Some of us may have found our niche and passions here at KCHS and some may be dying to get out. Whatever their situation, we have all made it to this point, standing before you as the class of 2022.”

Audience members were serenaded with renditions of “In Meeting We Are Blessed,” performed by the KCHS choir, “Red,” performed by the KCHS band and “America the Beautiful,” performed by the choir and band. A slideshow honoring graduates included photos of students paired with their future plans, which ranged from attending a four-year university, to taking a gap year, to pursuing a vocational career.

Multiple speakers during Tuesday night’s ceremony referenced the various challenges KCHS 2022 graduates have faced over the course of their high school career: the 7.1 magnitude earthquake freshman year, the Swan Lake Fire sophomore year and the COVID-19 pandemic for junior and senior years. That’s on top of a brief evacuation last year from what was thought to be an electrical fire but turned out to be a burnt motor, and a near-strike by district staff in 2018.

“Despite the obstacles we faced, we all sit here ready to move on to the next chapter in our lives,” said graduate Jacob Begich, who was selected by graduates as their class speaker.

KCHS teacher Douglas Armstrong, who gave the class’s commencement address, emphasized the relationship between happiness and success and said graduates have already demonstrated their grit and perseverance by making it to graduation day. He told graduates to think of their diplomas as a boarding pass that will take them to the next leg of their journey in life.

“My sage advice to you is to make a great life,” Armstrong said. “Be an active participant in life. Don’t wait for happiness and, by extension, success to just happen. Go out and get it. I know that you can.”

Assisting with the presentation of diplomas were KCHS Principal Daniel Beck, KCHS Vice Principal Will Chervenak, KCHS Athletic Director Jesse Settlemyer, KCHS representative Craig Jung, Kenai Middle School representative Ken Felchle, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Clayton Holland, KPBSD Board of Education member Matt Morse and KPBSD Director of Student Support Services Amy Hagen.

Graduates, who were given red roses with their diplomas, walked out of the auditorium to Jack Johnson’s “Upside Down” and in the wake of a shower of red and black balloons that rained from the ceiling after the class was presented..

Kenai Central High School’s 2022 commencement ceremony can be streamed in full on the school’s Facebook page.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

Graduates

Zoticus Active

Trista Apted

Brooke Ashley

Ellen Atchley

Samuel Baisden

Jacob Begich

Denali Bernard

Kylee Bitterich

Brandiee Bowers

Faith Braud

Kiara Bravo-Moe

Micha Campbell

Caleb Cannady

Dylan Case

Maccoy Castillo

Andrea Cordero *#

Logan Cotton

Caitlin Crabb

Ryan Crapps

Michael Dirks

Delaney Duck

Marcus Dunham

Daemon Duniphin

Dylan Duniphin

Melita Efta *

Hager El Serry ^

Leah Fallon

Summer Foster *

Jonathan Freeman

Kaitlynn Gist *#!

Jordan Gonzalez

Levi Good

Joseph Gottschalk

Griffin Gray

Cooper Grimm

Nathan Haakenson

Joseph Hamilton

Julianna Hamilton *#

Hayden Hansen *

Connor Harrison

Kaidence Harvey

Tyler Hippchen *#!

Karah Huff

Alexandria James

Lydia Jenkins

Elora Jennings

Sydney Johnson *#!

Mason Koliba

Carson Koppes

Erin Koziczkowski *

Audrey Larson

Ambrosia Lawrence

Jaala Lopez

Alexander Martin

David Martin

Elijah McCubbins

Elizabeth Moffett *#!

Amelia Mueller

Shannon Murphy

Daniel Myers

Trent Nabors

Amber Nash

Shelbie Naylor

Josiah Nunn

Nevaeh Olson

Elia Diez ^

Alexis Pierren

Skyler Pound

Francesca Saldivar

Logan Satathite

Nicholas Sloan

James Sparks

Macy Stanley

Morgan Starks

Catherine Stockton

Adrienne Stynsberg

Gabriella Tews *

Phoebe Thomas *

Isaiah Ticknor

Joyce Trenton

Armands Veksejs ^

Valerie Villegas !

Talon Whicker !

Wyatt White

Samiel Wilson

Savanna Wilson

George Wright

John Wright

Ashton Wright-Hanke

——

Key:

* – Honor graduate

# – National Honor Society

! – Service cord

^ – Foreign exchange

Kenai Central High School graduates applaud during their commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School graduates applaud during their commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School graduate Julianna Hamilton provides opening remarks at the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School graduate Julianna Hamilton provides opening remarks at the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School Assistant Principal Will Chervenak recognizes honor graduates during the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School Assistant Principal Will Chervenak recognizes honor graduates during the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Andrea Cordero (center) speaks as one of Kenai Central High School’s valedictorians during the school’s graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Andrea Cordero (center) speaks as one of Kenai Central High School’s valedictorians during the school’s graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Andrea Cordero (center) speaks as one of Kenai Central High School’s valedictorians during the school’s graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Andrea Cordero (center) speaks as one of Kenai Central High School’s valedictorians during the school’s graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School teacher Douglas Armstrong delivers a commencement address at the school’s 2022 graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School teacher Douglas Armstrong delivers a commencement address at the school’s 2022 graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Clayton Holland (center) helps congratulate Kenai Central High School graduates during a commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Clayton Holland (center) helps congratulate Kenai Central High School graduates during a commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School graduates throw caps at the end of their commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School graduates throw caps at the end of their commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

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