There was an air of hope and thanksgiving as family and friends gathered to watch nine students from Homer Flex High School graduate Tuesday. Christopher Bice, Kaylynn Bunnell, Crystal Campbell, Anton Kuzmin, Michael Peltier, Tyler Post, Samantha Tangman, Sage Van Hooser and Alexia Wrenn all received the honor of moving their tassels from right to left as they became high school graduates during the early evening ceremony at Land’s End.
Although many high school graduation ceremonies are punctuated by a speech from the principal and the valedictorian, all of the students, teachers and guests had a chance to speak and share their appreciation during the Homer Flex ceremony.
Many of the Homer Flex teachers had words of encouragement and personal gifts to bestow on the proud students.
Jannette Lattimer, nurse at Homer Flex, gave each of the students their own box of Band-aids with the encouraging reminder to, “Go forth and prosper. Have fun, get hurt, but not more than a Band-aid can handle.”
Principal Chris Brown gave each student a personalized message and a book picked out to help their individually chosen paths after graduation. For Bice, who plans to travel after graduation and represented true Homer fashion by wearing Xtra Tuffs under his graduation gown, Brown gave Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road.” Campbell received from Brown “Undaunted: The Real Story of America’s Servicewomen in Today’s Military” by Tanya Biank, to support her pursuit of a military career after graduation.
Jenny Derks-Andersen, math and science teacher, gave each student various toys and bubbles and encouraged them to live in the moment. “I appreciate the reminders from teaching you all to live in the moment. I have learned so much from you,” said Derks-Andersen.
After the faculty had a chance to speak, it was the students’ turn. Every graduate spoke, thanking family, friends, and the teachers at Homer Flex for supporting them toward their graduation goal.
“You taught me how to have integrity, how to advocate for myself, and how although change is inevitable, it can be a good thing,” said Bunnell.
Change and success in the face of adversity seemed to be a main theme during the ceremony, as showcased by the school’s phoenix mascot.
“Flex has helped me accomplish a lot that I wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” said Van Hooser, “The phoenix is a very apt representation of our school. Like the phoenix, a lot of us have faced adversity and have been able to rise through the ashes.”
Van Hooser was the recipient of two scholarships given out during the ceremony. The first was a $1,000 scholarship given by the Homer Emblem Club to graduates from the lower Kenai Peninsula. The second was a $500 scholarship from the American Legion.
Other awards and distinctions included the University of Alaska Scholar award, given to the top 10 percent of students at the end of their junior year, and the Masonic Outstanding Student Award which is annually presented to the Flex student that exemplifies excellence. The University of Alaska Scholar award was given to Kuzmin and Bunnell. The Masonic Outstanding Student Award also was presented to Bunnell.
As a final evening wrap up, the guests of each student were given the chance to speak. Many expressed their pride in each student, and thanks to all the teachers who helped them.
“I’d like to say that I’m very proud of you, Crystal, and thank you to all these people here that have helped my daughter,” said Ron Campbell, graduate Crystal Campbell’s father.
Hats flung into the air, cheers and cake marked an end to the evening as all nine students celebrated their transition out of their high school careers and into the wider world.
Aryn Young is a freelance writer for the Homer News.
Sage Van Hooser