Nikiski Middle/High School graduates file into the gymnasium during their graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates file into the gymnasium during their graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

‘Opportunity to forge our own path’

Nikiski celebrates 2023 commencement

In the Nikiski Middle/High School gymnasium Tuesday night, more than 25 high school graduates emerged from the mouth of a doghouse facade, crossed a stage and stepped into their future.

Under a net of turquoise, black and white balloons and to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” as performed by the Nikiski/Middle High School band, hundreds of family members and friends packed into the bleachers and filed into floor seats to watch their senior graduate.

Graduate Adrienne Muir opened the ceremony with the national anthem, followed by Student Body President and Valedictorian Jessica Perry. Other attendees included Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Clayton Holland and Board of Education member Jason Tauriainen.

Musical artist Taylor Swift was a subtle star of the night, with both the valedictorian and salutatorian invoking the singer during their speeches and one of her songs featured in the ceremony’s slideshow presentation.

“In the words of Taylor Swift, ‘It can be really overwhelming figuring out who to be, and when,’” Perry said, invoking Swift’s address to New York University’s 2022 graduating class.

Still, Perry had a few words of her own for the graduates.

“Each of you has a very special place in my heart,” she said. “As we go into the next phases of our lives, we’ll get the opportunity to forge our own path and become who we were meant to be.”

Included in a slideshow presentation arranged by Serenity Freeman, which shuffled through childhood and senior pictures for each graduate, were Hannah Montana’s “I’ll Always Remember You,” and “Wherever I Go” and Taylor Swift’s “Never Grow Up.”

Both Perry and class Salutatorian Savanna Stock attributed their academic accomplishments to their friends, to their family and to God. Stock said in her own speech to students that no dream of theirs is too big.

“Don’t let anyone limit you from your potential and most importantly, don’t limit yourself,” Stock said. “Transition and change can be hard, but … There is no one right way to take on life.”

Graduates exited the gym to the beat of their class song, Lady Gaga’s 2011 anthem “Born this Way.” Stock, Freeman and graduate Celina Martinez led seniors in the turning of the tassels ceremony, which was rounded out by the explosion of confetti cannons and a shower of balloons.

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

Spring graduates

Mya Akers

Tre’Len Anderson

Nicholas Barnes

Nathan Bourdukofsky

Drake Brankel

Marina Carew

Antonio Cazares

Charles Chamberlain

Jessica Clucas

Jesse Colton

Emma Edgar

Serenity Freeman

Timothy Goodnight

Drew Handley

Celina Martinez ^

Adrienne Muir

Dwyght Mullins

Hunter Neal

Shelby O’Brien

Jessica Perry *^#

Braeden Porter

Corbin Reichert

Zachary Rogerss

Danya Schwalb

Jasmine Smith

Savanna Stock ^+

Braydon Whiteside

KEY

^Honors Diploma

#Valedictorian

+Salutatorian

*National Honor Society

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates wait to receive diplomas at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates wait to receive diplomas at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates present roses to their loved ones during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates present roses to their loved ones during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates cheer on their peers while waiting to receive diplomas during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates cheer on their peers while waiting to receive diplomas during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates toss their caps during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates toss their caps during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Confetti falls on Nikiski Middle/High School graduates on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Confetti falls on Nikiski Middle/High School graduates on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Confetti falls on Nikiski Middle/High School graduates on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Confetti falls on Nikiski Middle/High School graduates on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Balloons fall on Nikiski Middle/High School graduates on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Balloons fall on Nikiski Middle/High School graduates on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates Shelby O’Brien (left) and Nathan Bourdukofsky (right) file into the gymnasium during their graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates Shelby O’Brien (left) and Nathan Bourdukofsky (right) file into the gymnasium during their graduation ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduate Adrienne Muir sings the national anthem during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduate Adrienne Muir sings the national anthem during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduate Jessica Perry delivers a valedictorian address during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduate Jessica Perry delivers a valedictorian address during a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates prepare to receive diplomas at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Nikiski Middle/High School graduates prepare to receive diplomas at a ceremony on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Nikiski, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

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