Graduate Coen Braxling enters Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduate Coen Braxling enters Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna sends off more than 140 graduates at Tuesday commencement

More than 140 students stepped off the Soldotna High School graduation stage and into their futures on Justin Maile Field on Tuesday evening, where school staff, families and friends gathered to celebrate the Class of 2024.

Under golden sunshine, the Soldotna High School band ushered in graduates with “Pomp and Circumstance,” followed by a performance of the national anthem by senior Jacob Wohlers and Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” by JLee Webster.

Clad in SoHi blue and decorated mortar boards, the graduates were offered congratulations and bits of life advice from a variety of speakers.

Valedictorian Nicholas Lopez and Salutatorian Avery Ciufo delivered a joint speech to the graduates, in which they thanked their families and friends and manifested a bright future for their peers. Just one-hundredth of a point separated Lopez and Ciufo’s grade point averages. Both are planning to study engineering: Lopez at Texas A&M University in College Station, Texas, and Ciufo at Montana State University in Bozeman, Montana.

“Today is the day where we celebrate our accomplishments, say goodbye to our grade school lives and welcome our futures,” Lopez said.

The two took turns speaking, recalling fondly the bonds of procrastination, remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic and activities like homecoming bonfires and prom.

“Regardless of whether or not we’re all friends, we still formed crucial bonds that will remain with us for a lifetime, even if some will only remain in memory,” Ciufo said.

Student body president Jeren Nash introduced the ceremony’s keynote speaker, who was selected by graduates. For the second time in three years, the honor went to Darren Zibell, who teaches geography, United States history and Alaska history. Zibell revived his “roast”-style speech, in which he threw out rhyming barbs about the senior class before sending them off with words of inspiration.

“A new epic in your life has now begun, time to find your purpose and become someone,” Zibell concluded. “It has been said that the meaning of life is that it ends. I believe that, in the end, the one with the best stories wins. So, work well, but enjoy life — you’ve only got one, we wish you the best and hope you always get dubs.”

Tuesday’s ceremony was the last for Principal Sargeant Truesdell, who is stepping down this year after three years at the school’s helm. In his address to graduates and attendees, Truesdell talked about his own academic struggles while in junior high and high school and thanked Frank Cullum, a guidance counselor who he said helped facilitate his success in school and life.

“I hope that I, over 26 years, have had the same kind of impact on a student or two or three and I hope that it’ll carry forward,” he said. “Ultimately, graduates, I’m super proud of you. I’m so happy that you’re here. You guys have got to be with me five out of the last six last years — I don’t know if that’s a happy thing or a sad thing, but I’m super proud of you guys.”

Prior to serving as principal at Soldotna High School, Truesdell was the principal of Skyview Middle School, also in Soldotna.

After the presentation of diplomas, graduates tossed their caps into the air and left the ceremony to the words of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Free Bird”: “If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me? For I must be traveling on now, ‘cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.”

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

Spring 2024 graduates

Kael Aamodt*

Kadee Adams*

Giovana Albuquerque#

Gabriel Almeida

Andrew Arthur

Mason Ayala

Caitlin Babcock

Angelina Beck

Maddox Black

Bay Bloom*

Ethan Boehme

Anatoli Boutwell

Montana Bowman

Gracie Bras

Coen Braxling

Jay Brott

Alaura Brown

Journey Bruner

Zachary Buckbee*

Hunter Bunch

Synder Calderon

Nicholas Calhoun

Lauryn Cannady

Kendyl Cannava

Mason Chace

Angelina Chavarria

Avery Ciufo*

Shyla Clark

Tanner Clyde

Sage Collier

Katelynn Collins

Hannah Connelly-Welch

Bailey Conner*

Declan Culver

Kobe Curry

Nels Dahl

Emily Day

Nicole Dickinson

Trenton Dooley-Gilliam

Angel-Marie Douglas

Erin Einerson*

Ava Fabian

David Fairbanks

Ashlee Fann

Danica Farrar

Shaun Firmin

Kiara Forkner*

Aurora Funk

Hunter Galleguillos

Ariana Gonzales

Kaitlyn Grimaldi

Shane Harmon

Adam Harper

Leihla Harrison*

Cash Hartley

Addesyn Harwell

Andi Hiler

Landon Hinds

Joseph Holt

Rebekah Hudson*

Charles Huff

Emma Hunter*

Josue Iraheta Sorto

Andrue Jamison

Hayden Jedlicka

Rory Jedlicka

Elijah Jedlicki

Wesley Johnson

Derrick Jones

Gavin Jones

Clara Jost#

Bryce Kampstra

Sarah Kitenge

Bowen Korth

Gracie Lanfear

Chasce Langvardt

Sandra Lantz

Cameron LaRoque

Hannah Leaders*

Alexandra Lee

Finnley Loop

Nicholas Lopez*

Emerson Lorring

Ethan Lowry

Deighton Luck*

Kaytlin McAnelly*

Andie McQueen

Gehret Medcoff

Alexxis Medley

Sophia Micciche*

Levi Mickelson*

Steller Milbauer

Braden Montgomery

Hākoa Montoya

Jacob Morgan

Tori Morse

Jeren Nash

Morgan Noyes

Katie Nye*

Jace O’Reagan

Collin Peck*

Andrew Pieh

Natalia Polanco

Adelyn Pontius

Nicholas Rackley

Cole Radeck

Meg Roberts

Emilia Rodriguez

Parker Rose

Thiraphat Samutthirat

James Sheetz

Mandi Sisley

Christian Skaggs

Teagun Slaughter

Mathyas Smith

Thornton Smith

Dominic Stamper

William Stang

Aiden Stinnett

Moriah Stitt

Kaydence Swift

Leigh Tacey

Justice Tautfest

Cody Thompson

Rylie Thompson

Gage Trent

Matua’iala Tuisaula

Nuno Venturi#

Ian Wardas

Charisma Watkins

Jenifer Webster

Abriella Werner*

Destiney Wheeler

Megan Whittom

Jessica Wilcox

Haiden Wilkinson

James Williams*

Jared Williams

Danika Winslow

Jacob Wohlers

Hannah Zichko

Early graduates

Miyah Clark Hassenfratz

Michael Cornell

Aiden Day

Emma Medina

Raven Morrell

KEY

* = National Honors Society

# = Foreign exchange student

Graduates prepare to receive their diplomas at Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates prepare to receive their diplomas at Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates prepare to receive their diplomas at Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates prepare to receive their diplomas at Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates prepare to receive their diplomas at Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates prepare to receive their diplomas at Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates prepare to receive their diplomas at Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates prepare to receive their diplomas at Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna High School graduate Jacob Wohlers performs the national anthem during the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna High School graduate Jacob Wohlers performs the national anthem during the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Outgoing Soldotna High School Principal Sargeant Truesdell addresses graduates during the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Outgoing Soldotna High School Principal Sargeant Truesdell addresses graduates during the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduate JLee Webster performs Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” during Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduate JLee Webster performs Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” during Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna High School Valedictorian Nicholas Lopez, left, and Salutatorian Avery Ciufo, right, address graduates during the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna High School Valedictorian Nicholas Lopez, left, and Salutatorian Avery Ciufo, right, address graduates during the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna High School student body president Jeren Nash addresses graduates during the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna High School student body president Jeren Nash addresses graduates during the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna High School student body president Jeren Nash, right, presents class speaker Darren Zibell with a t-shirt signed by members of the senior class during the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna High School student body president Jeren Nash, right, presents class speaker Darren Zibell with a t-shirt signed by members of the senior class during the school’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna High School teacher Darren Zibell addresses attendees and graduates during Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Soldotna High School teacher Darren Zibell addresses attendees and graduates during Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates wait to receive their diplomas during Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates wait to receive their diplomas during Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates wait to receive their diplomas during Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates wait to receive their diplomas during Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates wait to receive their diplomas during Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates wait to receive their diplomas during Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Caitlin Babcock, left, and other graduates enter Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Caitlin Babcock, left, and other graduates enter Soldotna High School’s commencement ceremony on Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

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