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 email@example.com.
Andrea Cordero *#
Melita Efta *
Hager El Serry ^
Summer Foster *
Kaitlynn Gist *#!
Julianna Hamilton *#
Hayden Hansen *
Tyler Hippchen *#!
Sydney Johnson *#!
Erin Koziczkowski *
Elizabeth Moffett *#!
Elia Diez ^
Gabriella Tews *
Phoebe Thomas *
Armands Veksejs ^
Valerie Villegas !
Talon Whicker !
* – Honor graduate
# – National Honor Society
! – Service cord