Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion River City Academy senior Marissa Jackson, 18, fidgets with her silver cords moments before walking into her graduation ceremony Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. She joined eight of her peers in an intimate ceremony filled with inside jokes and tearful thank you's.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion River City Academy senior Marissa Jackson, 18, fidgets with her silver cords moments before walking into her graduation ceremony Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. She joined eight of her peers in an intimate ceremony filled with inside jokes and tearful thank you's.

River City grads credit classroom environment

The nine graduates of River City Academy this year shared laugh after laugh — and a few tears — during their Tuesday ceremony that celebrated their unique teachers and education as much as it did their success.

While some have only been at the school for the last two years or so, others have been at River City since the seventh grade. Each graduate took the time during the ceremony at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to thank his or her parents, friends and teachers for investing in their education in a laid back and creative way.

Valedictorian Dakota Edin plans to apply to Colorado Film School, where he hopes to study writing and directing. His backup plan is to attend Kenai Peninsula College to fulfill his general requirements first. In true senior year fashion, Edin said he procrastinated until almost the last moment to write his speech.

“I sat down and it was hard, because I know what I want to say — it’s just hard to write it,” he said.

Edin said he will miss everything about River City Academy.

“I’ll miss the teachers — the teachers are fantastic,” he said. “They always encouraged me to work hard and improve.”

The stellar teaching at the school was echoed by every single graduating senior.

“(Principal) Dawn (Edwards-Smith) is like a mother to me,” said Majia Albertson.

While Albertson said she’s only attended River City Academy for the last two years, she has “known some of these people since seventh grade.”

Shannon Bradford had also already been working for some time when she claimed her diploma Tuesday. She was the first of the classmates to graduate, she said, and has been working for Hope Community Resources.

“Both my parents were in the medical field forever, so I already knew,” Bradford said.

The small, tight knit nature of her high school is what made her education so valuable, she said.

“It’s a really small school, so you get individualized teaching,” Bradford said. “You get a personal relationship with every teacher you have, and that doesn’t happen anywhere else.”

Some students, like Mason Castagnier, are heading into technical fields after high school. Castagnier will attend Alaska Vocational Technical Center for welding.

“It’s just something I’m interested in,” he said. “I was going to go to UAF, (but) did a little more research and found out AVTEC is the place to go.”

Castagnier will also miss his teachers once he’s gone.

“You’re treated as an adult by the teachers — I mean, they don’t treat you as a kid,” he said. “They’re pretty friendly. They’re more of your friend than acquaintance.”

Skyler Dreyer will attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks for construction trades technology.

“I’ve never really been like a dainty girl,” she said.

Dreyer spent a lot of time researching around the state, where she plans to stay, before deciding which program to enter.

“I found, like, the perfect one because the other one is three months and this one’s an associate’s degree, so I was like, there we go,” Dreyer said.

Other graduates, like Jessica Ramirez, haven’t fully decided what they want to pursue in their adult lives, so they are preparing by getting general education requirements out of the way. Ramirez will work toward an associate of arts degree from Kenai Peninsula College while she decides what to major in. She’d like to stay in the area for a while before moving on, she said.

Skyler Diehl will also pursue an associate of arts degree at the college while figuring out his next step. He said his last year at River City Academy really allowed him to finish forming close relationships.

“The latter half of the senior year, with not a lot to do, there’s definitely more time to communicate … with friends and get to know them,” Diehl said. “That led to more … intimate relationships outside of school and whatnot, and just making good friends.”

Haley Trefon will pursue a radiology certification at Kenai Peninsula College. While engineering first appealed to her, Trefon learned after taking a yearlong course for it that it wasn’t really for her. She then turned to the public health field.

“I looked at radiologists, and remembered my grandma did it, and I job shadowed with one and I had a lot of fun doing it,” Trefon said.

Marissa Jackson, who lived in Fairbanks before coming to the area, would also like to stay on the peninsula for a year or so before moving on to college. She hopes to attend Western Washington University in Bellingham, Washington.

“I’d like to be like an author or something like related to language,” Jackson said. “It’s just something that’s always been an interest for me, and I was like, hey, maybe I could make a career out of this.”

 

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

 

Maija Leann Albertson

Shannon Dae Bradford

Mason Cole Castagnier

Skyler Shay Diehl

Skyler Elisebeth Dreyer

Dakota James Edin

Marissa Cheyenne Jackson

Jessica Lizbet Ramirez

Haley Rose Trefon

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion River City Academy Principal Dawn Edwards-Smith helps fasten a stole onto Valedictorian Dakota Edin before the school's graduation ceremony Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion River City Academy Principal Dawn Edwards-Smith helps fasten a stole onto Valedictorian Dakota Edin before the school’s graduation ceremony Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion This year's nine graduates of River City Academy toss their caps into the air after getting their diplomas during a graduation ceremony Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska.

Photo by Megan Pacer/Peninsula Clarion This year’s nine graduates of River City Academy toss their caps into the air after getting their diplomas during a graduation ceremony Tuesday, May 17, 2016 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska.

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