One hundred and thirty-five Ketchikan High School seniors became alumni on Sunday during a standing-room-only ceremony.
As the Kayhi Wind Ensemble played “Fanfare and Processional” by Edward Elgar, pairs of students, arm in arm, entered the gym. Principal Bob Marshall welcomed guests and introduced speakers.
Class vice-president Chasina Klein began with a recap of senior activities over the past year, including Senior Carnival, the 4th of July parade, prom and skip day at Ward Lake. She wished her fellow classmates the best of luck, and encouraged them not to forget the community or their school.
Mario Rabacal sang “Wish My Life Away.”
Valedictorian Largim Zhuta thanked all the people who helped seniors on their journey. He began with teachers and school staff.
“You’ve gone above and beyond your call of duty. On behalf of the Class of 2018, thank you for going that extra mile. Thank you for making it fun. And thank you for making it memorable.”
Zhuta also thanked parents.
“So much of what you do goes unnoticed and (unappreciated). But I want to let you know that we do appreciate it, even if we don’t show it from time to time. After this is over, senior guys and gals, please do me a favor and go up to your parents, give them a hug, and tell them, ‘thank you.’ They have more than deserved it.”
Seniors in the wind ensemble joined the band for their final performance, “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Retired French teacher Myra Zelensky delivered the commencement address. Forty-five years ago, she was valedictorian of the Kayhi class of 1973. Zelensky says when she graduated, she was excited but nervous about leaving Ketchikan. She travelled to Switzerland as part of a gap-year exchange program. Zelensky says that experience changed the focus of her life.
“Believe it or not, I was a math and science student at Ketchikan High School. I was planning to study architecture at university. After my exchange, I came back and studied language and became a teacher. Be flexible. Stay open to the possibility of change to your plans and the direction of your life.”
She encouraged graduates to travel.
“And stay curious about the world – the cultures of the world. Try new foods, music, languages, and be sure to keep on reading books. Keep an attitude for life-long learning. Stay mentally active. Read to your children. Seek the unknown. Challenge yourself and respect the diversity around you.”
She also encouraged graduates to find jobs they love, be creative, and take care of themselves.
The all-senior jazz choir then performed together one last time.
There were several standing ovations during the ceremony, including those for the jazz choir, the championship Kayhi Academic Decathlon team, Myra Zelensky, and vice-principal Mike Rath, who is retiring at the end of this school year. The crowd also rose as the class was presented before heading down the aisle to receive their diplomas.
Tassels were turned, caps tossed, and family and friends crowded the gym floor to congratulate the alumni as they entered the next stage of their journey.