The pandemic class has graduated.
As he looked out over the Alice Witte Gym with students, family and friends sitting shoulder to shoulder, Homer High School Principal Douglas Waclawski noted the struggle the class of 2022 has gone through. For two-and-a-half years, they have shifted from online to hybrid to in-person learning, always with the cloud of the COVID-19 pandemic hanging over them.
With Centers for Diease Control alert levels in the green for the Kenai Peninsula, Homer High returned to the old normal, with a traditional celebration held not outdoors as in 2020 and 2021, but indoors in the gym, with all the pomp, circumstance, balloons and hugs.
With its smaller graduating class and audience, Homer Flex School held its graduation ceremony in 2021 at the Land’s End Resort Quarterdeck. It returned again this year, doors wide open to a gentle Kachemak Bay breeze. Students also graduated from the Connections Program, Nanwalek School, Nikolaevsk School, Ninilchik School, Port Graham School and Voznesenka School.
In his commencement address, student success liaison and girls basketball coach Chad Felice said, “The most importnt thing that I want to share with you is this: I encourage everyone to get out a little bit — get out. … Go to college, go to trade school, or you can even travel a bit and see the country.”
Graduates can always return, and “We’ll be lucky to have you return,” he said.
“Go follow your dreams. Follow your heart. Take some chances. Make mistakes. Learn to love in your heart. Break hearts,” he said. “… Make mistakes. Learn, grow, be better, repeat.”
Homer High had two valedictorians this year, Olivia Glasman and Serena Fankhauser. Waclawski noted the rigourous academic program the young women went through to excel: take mostly Advanced Placement classes and then a test at the end of the year to get college credit for their work. Both had a 4.336 grade-point average.
Fankhauser said she and Glasman had known each other since fifth grade and supported each other through math tests, seminars and history presentations. That’s a story common to many students, Glasman added. A similar connection exists in the community, Fankhauser said — “how interwoven our community is.”
“From our close connections with each other, we are equipped with tools like leadership, empathy and dedication,” she said. “As we leave home for college or going fishing or world travel, as Homer High graduates we will leave behind thousands of wonderful memories and relationships.”
“You have all been my study partners, teammates and friends,” Glasman said. “I can’t imagine walking across the stage with anyone else.”
Reach Michael Armstrong at email@example.com.
Homer Flex School
Lucinda Maryott Moreno
Homer High School
Henry Freund (early graduate)
Amber Negro (early graduate)
Nanwalek Elementary and High School
Ninilchik Elementary and High School
Port Graham School