The Nikiski Middle/High School seniors got their diplomas in an indoor commencement ceremony on Wednesday night.
Seniors Rosalie Anderson, Lillian Carstens and Samuel Smith were this year’s valedictorians. They gave a joint speech to the crowd about the lessons they’ve learned in high school and about what they look forward to in the next phase of their lives.
In an interview with the Clarion, Carstens said she’s excited to graduate and move on from Nikiski Middle/High School.
“I’ve been here for all my life so I’m ready for something new,” she said.
Carstens is off to play basketball for Edmonds College in the Seattle area next year, where she plans to pursue a degree in nutrition.
Smith said he’s going to get his associate’s degree from Kenai Peninsula College and then choose a school to get his bachelor’s afterward.
The students also said their high school experience has been affected by the coronavirus pandemic over the past year, so they were glad to be able to have an in-person graduation.
“It’s really made me appreciate school and all the teachers,” Smith said. “Just staying at home was not that great, but coming back here is really awesome. It adds a whole new outlook.”
Carstens described her class as a mixture of many personalities.
“We’re really different but we all connect in a good way,” she said.
Student Body President Sidney Epperheimer gave opening remarks on Wednesday night, thanking her loved ones for their support throughout her time at school in Nikiski and encouraging her classmates to cherish little moments.
“If you keep thinking about the time you have left you’ll never appreciate the time you have now,” Epperheimer told them during her address.
Brenden Boehme was Nikiski’s 2021 salutatorian. He spoke about the importance of effort, work ethic and planning ahead.
He shared that didn’t reach valedictorian status because of one class in his high school career — physical education. Boehme told his classmates to learn from his mistakes, and put forth effort to make their goals come to fruition.
The class chose Physical Science teacher Jennifer Hornung to be the commencement speaker.
Hornung recounted how much the students have grown from the first time she met most of them as middle schoolers six years ago.
“The classroom energy was always the same, it was family,” she said during her speech.
She then told the class the story of Chicken Little, who was sure the sky was falling after an acorn dropped from a tree onto the top of his head.
Hornung encouraged the students to not propagate fear as Chicken Little had done in the fable, and to analyze all sources of information when coming to life decisions.
Senior Savannah Ley prepared a slideshow of her class for the audience and Principal Dan Carstens, along with other school officials, presented the graduates with their diplomas.
Seniors Nicholas Mosqueda and Trey Sanguinetti led their class in the turning of the tassels.