Ninilchik high school class of 2014 - Robert Delgado, Jessica Rogers and Matthew Thorne - leave the May 21 commencement ceremonies, applauded by Ladawn Druce, school counselor; Jim White, director of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District's information services department; Joe Arness, KPBSD School Board president; and Jeff Ambrosier, principal of NInilchik School.

Scholarships boost future plans of Ninilchik graduates

When a high school graduating class has a total of three students, an impressive ranking is guaranteed. That was a point Ninilchik teacher Bryan Hickey made for Ninilchik graduates Robert Delgado, Jessica Rogers and Matthew Thorne during Hickey’s May 21 commencement address.

“Coming from a small school, college years can be daunting, but I expect you will stay in the top third of your class wherever you go,” said Hickey, drawing a laugh from the graduates and the gathering of family, friends and community members in the school gym.

Delgado has plans to attend AVTEC, Alaska’s Institute of Technology, in Seward in the fall; Rogers and Thorne each plan on attending Kenai Peninsula College. The years ahead will be less daunting thanks to scholarship awards made at the commencement ceremony.

After awarding the scholarships and before awarding diplomas, Principal Jeff Ambrosier said with a smile, “It is a good day to be a (Ninilchik) Wolverine.”

A slide presentation included plenty of images of each of the graduates. It documented the students’ high school years, but also included photos of younger versions of the three that sparked oohs and ahs, as well as embarrassing giggles.

With Imagine Dragons’ version of “On Top of the World” playing over the sound system, Delgado, Rogers and Thorne used the ceremony as an opportunity to present roses to each of the individuals in the crowd who had helped them reach this pinnacle in their lives.

The graduates also had opportunities to direct comments to each other, beginning with Thorne, who moved to Ninilchik five years ago.

“We’ve made lifelong friends and had a lot of fun on this rollercoaster they call high school,” said Thorne. “But don’t dwell on the past. We all have a future to look forward to. It doesn’t matter if your dreams come true if you spend your whole life dreaming.”

Delgado, the class salutatorian, noted the long hours of study and encouragement from others it took for each of them “to be the best we can be.”

“They say it takes a village to raise a child. I don’t think we’ll find a case where that’s truer than here,” he said.

In her valedictorian address, Rogers focused on the future for herself and her classmates.

“You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets,” she said. “See you at the top.”

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at

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