Revilla Alternative School graduates celebrate on stage. (KRBD Photo – Liam Niemeyer)

30 graduating high school seniors wearing jeans and T-shirts walk, and for some dance, down the aisle of the Ted Ferry Civic Center to take a seat up on the stage next to their principal. Hanging above them is a Star-Wars-themed banner.

Revilla Alternative School’s graduation ceremony is out of the ordinary, to say the least.

“We have one kid in a cap and gown, a couple kids in Hawaiian shirts, t-shirts, dress shirts, you name it. So it makes it kind of fun,” Revilla Principal Kurt Lindemann said.

Unlike traditional graduation ceremonies, Revilla let’s their graduating students have a part in planning the ceremony.

“I think it matches our students. They all get a piece of it. They’ll all get to speak tonight if they want to,” Lindemann said. “Most high school graduations have the valedictorian, and that’s about it. So everyone gets to have a piece in it, and it makes it their graduation. And every year it’s different. And the tradition is that everyone gets to put in their piece.”

Just like its ceremony, Revilla Alternative School is also unique. As a one-room building, it provides a different route for junior high and high school students who struggle in the classroom because of family, financial and academic challenges.

“These kids have overcome great challenges and odds. And a lot of them have a lot of support, and a lot of them don’t,” Revilla Teacher David Smith, said. “To have enough pride and respect in yourself to finish this mission when no one would fault you for giving up on it is pretty brave. They’re great kids.”

Some graduates had to work two full-time jobs. Some needed their laundry done at the school. And then there’s Emil Kvasnikoff, the only grad wearing a gown and cap. Its blue and gold color shines in the light.

“Before I came to Ketchikan, I was living in Anchorage and going to a high school called Bartlett Golden Bears my sophomore year,” Kvasnikoff said. “That’s where all my family is, that’s where my friends go. And their colors are gold and blue.”

Kvasnikoff’s cousin sent him the gown and cap from his former Anchorage high school as a surprise gift. After multiple arrests, he came down to Ketchikan for a new start.

“I’m just really happy because I’m the first in my family to ever do it, and I’m speechless because it’s big. Because I’ve always been told growing up I wasn’t going to be able to make it through my freshman year or nothing. Because I’ll be incarcerated, or I’ll be in trouble or something. But in the end, I was still able to have that determination and work ethic to get it done.”

Kvasnikoff plans to attend Central Methodist University in Missouri on a partial football scholarship in pursuing his dreams of becoming a NFL player.