Eight graduates turned their tassels the evening of May 18 in the Ninilchik School gymnasium.
The group of friends, who have studied, shared classrooms and participated in extracurriculars together for more than a decade, huddled with arms around each other’s shoulders after their principal Jeff Ambrosier announced their graduation to an audience of family and friends.
“The feeling is bittersweet definitely,” said graduate Melissa Clark. “It’s hard to let go of so many friendships but I am excited for the future.”
Clark will attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks next fall in the pre-vet program. She said she has been set on being a veterinarian for quite some time.
Clark said she was inspired to pursue the career after her horse developed colic. She said she felt helpless and doesn’t want to experience that feeling again.
That evening she took the stage nearly 10 times to accept thousands of dollars in scholarships. Some she was prepared to receive; others were a great surprise. The financial assistance from the scholarships will be a big help getting through school, she said.
Clark’s peer Ajiel Basmayor also received thousands of dollars in scholarships from organizations such as the Homer Electric Association, the Homer Elks Lodge, Homer Emblem Club 350 and the Ninilchik Domestic Engineers among many others.
Between awards, Ambrosier paused the procession to acknowledge two graduates who would not be receiving scholarships Monday.
Samuel Mireles and Peter Pascua have enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps, Ambrosier said.
“I am so proud of these boys,” Ambrosier said. “They are not getting — they are giving.”
Mireles said he decided to join the Marine Corps because of its physical and mental challenges, as well as the chance to travel abroad and help people in need. Following commencement, friend after friend approached Mireles to shake his hand and congratulate him.
“I feel free,” Mireles said. “I always wanted to make my grandma proud and I think this is the first step toward doing that.”
Sebastian Appelhanz and Hannah Soplanda also earned scholarships to use for post-graduation academics.
Appelhanz said he is unsure of what career he will be pursuing, but is starting out with general education courses at Kenai Peninsula College, to help narrow down his choices.
“I feel free and a little nervous,” Appelhanz said. “I am about to embrace the real world, but I guess I have to take it while it hits me.”
Ethan Koch said he will miss his good friend Appelhanz and the time they spent going on walks, “goofing around” and bonding outside of the walls Ninilchik School. Koch is seeking a career as a fisherman and will start out as a deck hand this summer. He plans to work on charter fishing boats, catching salmon and halibut.
“I really like fishing and being out in the open water,” Koch said. “I like taking a break and forgetting about everything.”
Kelly Sullivan is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion.
Ninilchik’s Class of 2015
Sebastian Paul Appelhanz
Ajiel Mae Fabula Basmayor
Tiana Sierra-Dawn Baum
Melissa Anne Clark
Ethan Allen Koch
Samuel Falefia Mireles
Peter Paul Pascua
Hannah Shay Soplanda