Friendship was on the mind of many Nikiski High School graduates Wednesday night as they prepared to accept their diplomas and cross into the next phase of their lives.
“I’m going to miss all of my classmates that I’ve spent so much time with and the teachers, too,” graduate Myranda Rockett said.
Rockett, who has attended school in Nikiski since seventh grade, said she was glad she ended up at Nikiski after moving from Homer. “The community and friendships I’ve had are pretty important,” she said. “And I couldn’t have done it without my teachers.”
Rockett plans on attending cosmetology school in Boise, Idaho, with a focus on hair dressing. She said she was looking forward to building new friendships and finding new opportunities in the city.
Ahead of the ceremony, friends hugged, talked and looked nervous as they grasped the white carnations they would carry throughout the ceremony.
“I’m nervous because I’m graduating and then it’s adulthood and that’s terrifying,” Dalton Lee said.
Lee and his two friends, Henry Heft and Gavin Wallis, clustered together in the crowd, joking with one another in the hallways one last time. The three friends, who have spent their high school careers working on tech projects together, expressed excitement and nervousness, along with a sense that things would never be the same.
“It’s just feels weird thinking that not all of these guys are just going to be here the next day,” Heft said. “Thinking, ‘oh I’m going to see them again tomorrow.’ And reality is probably not, unless you schedule something with them.”
It may be a while before Heft sees his friends again. He is shipping out to Missouri in June, to begin his military career. Heft signed up for five years in U.S. Army, where he plans to work in military intelligence.
Wallis is staying closer to home. He plans to study in Kenai Peninsula College’s two-year process technology program, looking to work on the North Slope. For now, he’s excited to have some freedom to pursue recreational activities — fishing, hunting and fixing up his cars.
“It was fun here in high school,” Wallis said. “I really enjoyed Nikiski but I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of my life and what I have coming up. I feel like the students and staff have really prepared me for my life down the road.”
Lee plans to study computer science and IT at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He hopes to one day own a computer and electronics repair store.
“I think what I can say about Nikiski is it’s a great place,” Lee said. “It’s kind of out of the way, but there’s good people here.”
The school’s 46 students alternately smiled and looked pensive during the commencement ceremony, which included a performance of Bruno Mars’ “Count on Me” by graduates Treasa Cooper and Drew Davis. Valedictorian Melanie Sexton and Salutatorian Jamie Yerkes gave addresses to the audience.
For Gage Ohlsen, a burgeoning fantasy writer who hopes some day to work in film and television, the ceremony was a particularly poignant occasion. It meant a lot to him to have both of his parents cheering him, he said. Ohlsen relocated from Seward to spend his senior year in Nikiski after his mom moved to Boston, he said.
Despite his short stint at the school, Ohlsen said his experience at Nikiski has been positive.
“Even though I’ve only been here for one year — my senior year — I feel like lots of people know we pretty well and I feel like I’ve made my mark here,” he said.