Many Homer students have gone on to varying types of post-secondary education, often in different cities and states, where they grow and are changed by their new surroundings and the people they meet. For most of these students, they are drawn back to Homer by the triple zero in their bank account. Here, where the job market booms during the summer season, former Homer students are bound to find work well worth their time in an effort to hold off a few college loans. For these three Homer students though, as is the case for many, they are motivated to return to Homer not just for a chance to make money, but also because of a love for this community.
Locals Jonas Noomah, of Swarthmore College, Jane Rohr, of Seattle University, and Robert Hockema, of the University of Alaska Anchorage, who were all graduating seniors of Homer High’s Class of 2015, have been drawn back to Homer by more than just dollar signs. For one thing, they miss their beloved small town.
In a statement echoed by both Noomah and Hockema, Rohr said, “Everybody says they hate a small town, everyone knows everyone, but I kind of miss that small town feel. It’s homey to me.”
“That’s another thing I miss, walking into anywhere, a store, and seeing someone I know,” said Hockema, in a statement reiterated by the fact that he had already seen four people he knew since walking into the location of our meeting.
Digging a litte deeper, Hockema went on to say, “I don’t know how to phrase this. People treat you differently here. People here are more forgiving, more understanding. It’s easier to work as a collective here.”
It is one of these collectives that Noomah names missing most about Homer — his former marimba group. He explained what a great opportunity he was given as a young person to play high energy music with a group like Homer’s, and he said he hadn’t yet been able to replace that in his life at school
Beyond the community, these students also are thrilled by Homer’s one-of-a-kind location. The many peaks and open water hold a sense of home for these three interviewees, which is difficult to find anywhere else.
“There’s something really comforting about having the mountains and the bay always in sight,” said Noomah.
Hockema also says that he has missed being closer to the ocean. And Rohr, though on the Puget Sound, missed her Homer winter, but did find Seattle reactions to a half inch of snow somewhat comical.
Due to the community, and the beauty of the place itself, all three interviewees said that they would at least consider settling in Homer, or elsewhere in Alaska, but of course, much of where they end up will be dictated by factors out of their control, including where they get into grad school and where their careers take them.
Or, more simply, in the words of Hockema, “It depends. It totally depends.”
“I can’t think of anywhere better to go, honestly,” said Noomah, an undeclared major considering marine biology, whose love of Homer, and communities like it, is a key factor in deciding his choice of major, in contrast to Rohr and Hockema.
Whether they end up in Homer or not, all of these students are certainly going somewhere. All are involved in a varying list of extracurriculars and clubs in addition to their classes, and seem to find a level of enjoyment in these things. Both Hockema and Rohr said flat out that they simply liked school. And both miss certain things about their lives elsewhere.
For Hockema, it’s about independence, which he attained a new level of while “playing adult” for his first year at UAA.
“I really enjoy living alone and having to overcome challenges by myself or with friends,” said Hockema.
On the other hand, Rohr says she misses being around people all time, as is the case in the close quarters of dorm life which she adjusted to over her first year at Seattle University.
When asked if he missed anything about school, Noomah said, with a smirk, “I don’t miss the belltower going off every five minutes,” a plight which many a college student can relate to, but on a more serious note, added, “I’ve been so into enjoying being back that I haven’t thought about what I miss about Swarthmore.”
Regardless of how they are taking the transition home, all interviewees expressed some sense of gratitude for the community in which they grew up. Whether they land themselves back in Homer for good, or wind up in a city halfway across the world, they have certainly been shaped by this community and its generous, free spirit.