Flanked by his past portraits, River City Academy graduate Morgan Shepherd speaks to his eleven peers in River City’s class of 2017 during the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. All the graduates gave speeches at the ceremony, introduced by principal Dawn Edwards-Smith, who compared each one to a literary or cinematic hero.

Flanked by his past portraits, River City Academy graduate Morgan Shepherd speaks to his eleven peers in River City’s class of 2017 during the school’s graduation ceremony on Wednesday, May 24, 2017 at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex in Soldotna, Alaska. All the graduates gave speeches at the ceremony, introduced by principal Dawn Edwards-Smith, who compared each one to a literary or cinematic hero.

River City grads reminisce

Each of the 10 River City Academy graduates present in the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex for the school’s Wednesday graduation ceremony gave a short speech before accepting their diplomas. In addition to thanking their parents and teachers, most spent their time behind the podium paying homage to each other.

“Now, I’ve met a lot of people, and to this day, you 10 are the weirdest people I’ve ever met,” graduate Capra Edward-Smith told his peers. “Thank you for that. You’ve all taught me so much.”

Like many of the speeches, his was filled with inside jokes and memories — the huge bucket of animal crackers that fellow graduate Summer Trefon brought on a class hike to Seward’s Fort McGilvray, or an insightful speech that graduate Shawn Detmer (recalled in speeches by several classmates as a class clown) gave once in a model UN session.

This year’s tight-knit group of a dozen River City graduates — two of whom weren’t at the ceremony – was the largest in the school’s 10 year history. Several spoke about their struggles to graduate, and about the parents, teachers, and peers who helped them force their way to a diploma.

“Thanks for not letting me give up on myself when I thought I couldn’t do it,” Ellyce Woodward said to her classmates.

River City Principal Dawn Edwards-Smith describes the school on its website as “a small, performance based learning environment” where students “are provided opportunities to work ‘in the field’ on individual projects through internships and professional experiences.” The school accepts students from grades 7 to 12.

Some of Wednesday’s graduates entered River City as middle schoolers, others at high school age, creating a mix of experiences and backgrounds. Valedictorian Izabeau Pearston commented in her speech on the variety among her classmates.

“I know the 10 of us all began our journeys in different ways — different locations, academic challenges, and support systems,” Pearston said. “But we’ve all made it here tonight no matter the challenge. I’ve got to say to all 10 of you that I’m honored to have gotten to know you and grown up alongside you.”

River City Academy’s class of 2017 includes Capra Edwards-Smith, Jenna Helminski, Sawyer Mahan, Izabeau Pearston, Jacob Rybicki, Ellyce Woodward, Shawn Wright, Wyatt Wright, Cody Yancey.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com.

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