Tatiana Cooper, laughing, of Ninilchik's graduating class reacts to Barbara Denboer's commencement address during the graduation ceremony on May 24, 2017 in the Ninilchik School Gym in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Tatiana Cooper, laughing, of Ninilchik's graduating class reacts to Barbara Denboer's commencement address during the graduation ceremony on May 24, 2017 in the Ninilchik School Gym in Ninilchik, Alaska. (Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Ninilchik community celebrates graduating class

  • Thursday, May 25, 2017 3:28pm
  • News

Eleven Ninilchik seniors lined the walls of the school gym following their graduation ceremony to receive well-wishes, hugs and gifts from the community that helped raise them.

“If there’s just one thing I have to say tonight, I’d like to give an enormous ‘thank you’ to the entire community of Ninilchik. It quite literally took the entire village to raise each and every one of these graduates,” valedictorian Mikayla Clark said during her speech.

Throughout the ceremony, the feeling of community within Ninilchik was repeated with the age old-adage “It takes a village.” On Wednesday night, the village came together to offer more than 10 scholarships to this year’s graduating class.

Katrina Appelhanz, Tatiana Cooper and Heather Bear each received the Project GRAD Scholarship.

Heather Bear also received the Erling Kvasnikoff Scholarship, Ninilchilk Domestic Engineers Merit Award, Ninilchik Traditional Council Scholarship and the Alaska Performance Scholarship.

Jacob Roberts received the Golden Rule Scholarship, Alaska Performance Scholarship and the Anonymous Donor Award.

Clark received the Hilcorp Future Leaders of America Scholarship, University of Alaska Scholar Award, Ninilchik Domestic Engineers Merit Award, Homer Elks Scholarship Award and the Alaska Performance Scholarship.

“I’m excited about the scholarships. It’s definitely going to help with college,” Clark said. She plans on attending the University of Southeast Alaska to study environmental science and pursue a career in biomedical engineering.

The other graduating students have a wide variety of post high school plans, including Roberts who is attending Kenai Peninsula College in the fall.

“After I take care of my general education requirements, I plan on going out of state or to the University of Alaska Fairbanks to pursue a film degree,” Roberts said.

Tatiana Cooper described her plans as “weird,” but highlighted her hope to give back to whatever community she ends up living in.

“I got engaged in February and my fiancé is in boot camp in the Navy right now,” Cooper said. “But, we’re getting married in August and where ever he gets stationed, I’ll start nursing school there and help within a local church with disabled kids or something to help people.”

Cooper’s appreciation for community started in Ninilchik.

“I’ve been here since preschool,” Cooper said. “I loved high school and I loved it here. It’s really sad to think that I’m leaving.”

But, as the students were reminded by their commencement speaker, Ninilchik teacher Barbara Denboer, they’re ready to start the next phase in life, even if they will be missed.

“My chickens are leaving the nest,” Denboer said.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com

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