Soldotna students receive graduation lectures from faculty

The two Soldotna High School staff members that the graduating class of 2015 chose to deliver keynote speeches during their Tuesday graduation ceremony at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex were head custodian Lance Roberts and distance education teacher Lisa Thomas. Approximately 184 students listened to their speeches.

Thomas spoke of her own academic difficulties and of how those difficulties ultimately lead her to her present life. Thomas said that flunking her first year of college prompted her to change her major to geology, a choice that launched her career. That summer she also discovered bicycling. Thomas, a breast cancer survivor, bicycled 470 miles across Iowa in 2007 during an event sponsored by cancer charity Team LIVESTRONG.

“Rather than bore you with my actual struggles, I’d like to compare my cycling journey with my life journey,” Thomas said. “Both contain things that I’ve used to build my set of skills.” She compared the persistence and effort required to cycle over hills to the qualities necessary to succeed in life.

Roberts also said that his varied experiences — he has been a heavy equipment operator, oil field worker, truck driver, and carpenter — had prepared him to enjoy life.

“If someone told me 36 years ago I’d be a head custodian, let alone standing on this stage, well, I can tell you I’d have lost a lot of money on that bet,” he said. “But I can tell you one thing. Dreams come true. Because I love this job.”

Roberts told the students that the pleasantness of daily life was a matter of attitude.

“Sometimes I have to do some not-so-pleasant things,” Roberts said, referring to his occasional duty of unplugging clogged toilets. “Ironically, I remember my grandfather told me when I was very little: ‘I don’t care what you do grandson. Do it to the best of your ability. I don’t care if it’s cleaning a toilet.’”

The ceremony ended with confetti and a hat-toss, after which the graduates talked and took photos with their friends and family members on the floor of the sports complex. Graduate Megan English said she was glad to be done.

“It was certainly longer than normal, but it was worth it,” English said. “It was a really good graduation ceremony, and I think we represented the schools really well.” The schools she referred to were Soldotna and Skyview High Schools, which were reconfigured this year by the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, making Skyview into a middle school and sending its high school students to Soldotna.

After a senior year that she called “hectic” and “bittersweet,” English plans to study chemical engineering at Montana State University.

“Afterwards, I’d like to probably move on and get a Master’s, and go into biofuel research and development,” English said.

Graduate Ruth Anne Murdock said the highlight of her senior year was the logo she created for the senior class sweatshirts, which commemorated the merger of Skyview and Soldotna high schools by superimposing a paw-print on a star.

“Because Skyview’s mascot is the panthers,” Murdock said, “and the star is SoHi.”

Murdock wants to enter Kenai Peninsula College in the spring semester to study digital photography.

Graduate Clayton Longfellow, who plans to become an apprentice electrician this summer, also referred to the merger of the schools, which he said had been expected to produce rivalry and fighting. He said the highlight of his senior year was “probably the hockey team, and how everybody got along without being murdered.”

“I just didn’t think it was going to be as nice and as easy as it was,” Longfellow said. “A lot of people were like ‘uh, this isn’t going to go well,’ but it went pretty good.”

Graduates Kaitlynn Boyer, Courtney Barker, and Tyann Reed each plan to continue their educations through schooling or experience. Boyer intends to study dental hygiene, and Reed to earn a psychology degree. Barker said she would “travel the world for a bit.”

“I want to go to Peru,” Barker said. “Because I want to see Machu Pichu.”

Each of the three said they will want to return to the Kenai Peninsula.

“It’s beautiful,” Reed said. “It’s too beautiful to leave.”

Barker interjected. “We want to fish. Fishing is life.”

“We want to give back to the community,” Boyer said.

“Yeah,” Reed said. “We want to raise our children here. Raise our children in the same community we were raised.”

“And go to SoHi,” Boyer said.

“Yeah, go to SoHi,” Barker said. “The kids will go to SoHi. All the children. Go to SoHi.”

When asked to describe her senior year, Barker said it was “a good time.”

“A lot of fun,” she said. “Way better than we deserved. It was one hell of a crazy ride.”

Graduate Klayton Justice, standing nearby, broke into the conversation to give a quote of his own.

“Oh, I got one,” Justice said. “’All the years of hard work have finally paid off.’ You like that one?”


Reach Ben Boettger at

More in News

Graphic by Ashlyn O'Hara
Borough, school district finalizing $65M bond package

Efforts to fund maintenance and repairs at school district facilities have been years in the making

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Members of the House Majority Coalition spent most of Friday, May 13, 2022, in caucus meetings at the Alaska State Capitol, discussing how to proceed with a large budget bill some have called irresponsible. With a thin majority in the House of Representatives, there’s a possibility the budget could pass.
State budget work stretches into weekend

Sessions have been delayed and canceled since Wednesday

Peter Segall / Juneau Empire
Alaskans for Better Government members La quen náay Liz Medicine Crow, Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson and ‘Wáahlaal Gidáak Barbara Blake embrace on the floor of the Alaska State Senate following the passage of House Bill 123, a bill to formally recognize the state’s 229 federally recognized tribes.
Tribal recognition bill clears Senate, nears finish line

Senators say recognition of tribes was overdue

The Alaska Division of Forestry’s White Mountain crew responds to a fire burning near Milepost 46.5 of the Sterling Highway on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, near Cooper Landing, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Cooper Landing Emergency Services)
Officials encourage residents to firewise homes

The central peninsula has already had its first reported fires of the season

In this September 2017 file photo from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, beluga whales arch their backs through the surface of the water. Of Alaska’s five distinct beluga whale populations, only Cook Inlet’s is listed as endangered. (Courtesy the Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Celebrate belugas with virtual programming next week

The three-day event will include conferences and activities

Capt. Corey Wheeler, front, commander of B Company, 1st Battalion, 52nd Aviation Regiment at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, walks away from a Chinook helicopter that landed on the glacier near Denali, April 24, 2016, on the Kahiltna Glacier in Alaska. The U.S. Army helped set up base camp on North America’s tallest mountain. The U.S. Army is poised to revamp its forces in Alaska to better prepare for future cold-weather conflicts, and it is expected to replace the larger, heavily equipped Stryker Brigade there with a more mobile, infantry unit better suited for the frigid fight, according to Army leaders. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File)
Army poised to revamp Alaska forces to prep for Arctic fight

The U.S. has long viewed the Arctic as a growing area of competition with Russia and China

A man fishes in the Kenai River on July 16, 2018, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/file)
Emergency orders, fishing conditions updated

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game Division of Sport Fish released a Northern Kenai fishing report Friday

My Alaskan Gifts is seen at the Kenai Municipal Airport on Wednesday, May 11, 2022. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Municipal Airport gets gift shop

Locally sourced Alaska products are the newest addition to the Kenai Municipal… Continue reading

FILE - A sign requiring masks as a precaution against the spread of the coronavirus on a store front in Philadelphia, is seen Feb. 16, 2022. Philadelphia is reinstating its indoor mask mandate after reporting a sharp increase in coronavirus infections, Dr. Cheryl Bettigole, the city’s top health official, announced Monday, April 11, 2022. Confirmed COVID-19 cases have risen more than 50% in 10 days, the threshold at which the city’s guidelines call for people to wear masks indoors. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)
US marks 1 million COVID-19 deaths; 15 more reported in Alaska

The state Department of Health and Social Services reported 15 more COVID-19… Continue reading

Most Read