Kenai Central High School Assistant Principal Will Chervenak joins students on stage during graduation on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School Assistant Principal Will Chervenak joins students on stage during graduation on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

‘Through the good times and the bad’

After tumultuous final years, Kenai Central High School seniors receive diplomas

A shower of balloons, a game of telephone and the distribution of roses alongside diplomas were all elements of Monday’s graduation ceremony at Kenai Central High School, where 68 seniors were honored.

The ceremony was held at the Renee C. Henderson Auditorium at KCHS and capped the end of a school year that saw students switch between in-person classes and remote learning as the number of COVID-19 cases in the community ebbed and flowed throughout the year.

KCHS Assistant Principal Will Chervenak spoke on the unique challenges faced by KCHS’s class of 2021 — including the Swan Lake Fire, an almost-strike by KPBSD staff, the COVID-19 pandemic and multiple leadership changes at the school — and shared memories he had of each student and what he would miss most about them after they graduated.

Chervenak said that, collectively, the KCHS class of 2021 earned more than $400,000 in scholarship money, won eight state athletics titles, put in more than 800 volunteer hours and had a collective grade point average of 3.28.

“Thank you for sharing your lives with all of us, it has been a privilege to know you,” Chervenak said. “And make sure to share your wonderful, amazing selves with the world, for you all have much to give to humanity. Deepest congratulations, graduates.”

KCHS also honored 10 valedictorians, who completed the honor graduate program and who were also involved in other extra curricular activities, such as student council or volunteer work. Valedictorians honored included Abigail Moffett, Owen Rolph, Sorin Sorenson, Hannalore Morrow, Emmarie Edwards-Dean, Connor Koppes, Emma Mullet, Rachel Koppes, Matthew Gryzbowski and Aiden Arness.

Valedictorian Abigail Moffett, who plans to major in biology at Williams College and later attend medical school, praised the efforts of her peers and echoed Chervenak’s comments on the wave of obstacles they have collectively overcome.

“Every senior here has fought — through the good times and the bad — to be here, in this very room at this very moment,” Moffett said. “And to all of them, I would like to say congratulations. All of the hard work you have put in has paid off.”

Valedictorian Owen Rolph, who plans to pursue a degree in biomedical science from Old Dominion University, thanked parents and teachers for their roles in students’ success.

“The seniors before you today are not simply here to cruise through life, but take the reins and charge on,” Rolph said. “As we celebrate the ending of a chapter today, we give hope for a new dawn tomorrow. Our futures are bright.”

Class Speaker Grace Morrow, who was elected by the other seniors to speak, pulled from a speech she gave at their eighth grade graduation and spoke to how frequently they have been asked what they want to do when they grow up. Morrow said she is still not sure, but that the most important lesson she learned wasn’t academic in nature.

“It wasn’t finding limits or using the unit circle, it was [that] what I do with my life to make money isn’t what defines me,” Morrow said. “My occupation is not synonymous with my identity or my status. To 2021 me, the more important question is ‘Who do you want to be’?”

Commencement Speaker Kristin Davis, who is also a teacher at KCHS, had the graduates play a game of “telephone” during her speech. Starting at one end of the stage, she whispered to the first person what she thought the secret to a successful life is. That person then had to whisper the secret to the next person, who whispered it to the next person, and so on until it reached the last person at the other end of the stage.

“They did it!” Davis said. “There is no secret … Playing this game of telephone is as much symbolic as it is entertaining … when it comes right down to it, you shouldn’t count on someone else to tell you the secret of a meaningful and fulfilling life.”

Diplomas were handed out by Chervenak, KCHS Administrator Jesse Settlemyer, incoming KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland, KPBSD Board of Education Member Matt Morse and Director of Student Support Services Amy Hagen. With their diplomas, graduates were also given a white or red rose.

Along with a senior slideshow, the ceremony also saw performances by the KCHS band, a recorded speech from State Sen. Peter Micciche, a speech from Holland and a round-robin speech from all 10 valedictorians. Once tassels had been changed, the graduates walked out to fun.’s “Some Nights” while red, white and black balloons fell around them.

KCHS’ full graduation ceremony can be streamed live on the school’s Facebook page. Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

Kenai Central High School Assistant Principal Will Chervenak speaks during graduation on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai Central High School Assistant Principal Will Chervenak speaks during graduation on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

State Sen. Peter Micciche remotely addresses graduates at Kenai Central High School on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

State Sen. Peter Micciche remotely addresses graduates at Kenai Central High School on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Students play a game of “telephone” during graduation at Kenai Central High School on Monday, May 17 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Students play a game of “telephone” during graduation at Kenai Central High School on Monday, May 17 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates hold roses during Kenai Central High School’s 2021 graduation ceremony on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Graduates hold roses during Kenai Central High School’s 2021 graduation ceremony on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Rachael Pitsch (left), Owen Rolph (center) and Abigail Moffett lead students in the turning of the tassels during graduation at Kenai Central High School on Monday, May 17 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Rachael Pitsch (left), Owen Rolph (center) and Abigail Moffett lead students in the turning of the tassels during graduation at Kenai Central High School on Monday, May 17 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Incoming KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland speaks to graduates at Kenai Central High School on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Incoming KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland speaks to graduates at Kenai Central High School on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Balloons are dropped from the ceiling of Renee C. Henderson Auditorium during Kenai Central High School’s graduation ceremony on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Balloons are dropped from the ceiling of Renee C. Henderson Auditorium during Kenai Central High School’s graduation ceremony on Monday, May 17, 2021 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

KCHS valedictorians Abigail Moffett and Owen Rolph speak at KCHS’ graduation ceremony on Monday, May 17 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

KCHS valedictorians Abigail Moffett and Owen Rolph speak at KCHS’ graduation ceremony on Monday, May 17 in Kenai, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

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