Kayhi Class of 2022 (KRBD staff photo).

After two years without a traditional graduation ceremony, family and friends celebrated the Ketchikan High School Class of 2022 at the Clarke Cochrane gymnasium Memorial Day weekend.

The bleachers in the gym were near capacity as 128 graduates were honored at the commencement ceremony. Class president Ellie Pickrell spoke about the challenges of attending classes via Zoom and having to be resilient and creative in light of the pandemic.

“So as we all part and go our separate ways, remember to never shy away from a challenge, lean on others when you need to, and do everything compassionately and courageously. Always laugh harder, love deeper and live fuller.”

Valedictorian Chloe Gosnel spoke of the challenges COVID presented, but said despite the setbacks they were able to have a prom, Skip Day and a much-needed “regular” graduation. Gosnel reminded her classmates that each will build their own future.

“Your words carry meaning. Your actions hold purpose. It is up to you to decide what kind of impact you want to have with your words and actions.”

The commencement speaker was Alaska Department of Commerce Commissioner Julie Sande. She introduced herself as a Kayhi graduate of the class of 1992. Sande offered the graduates several pieces of advice about taking risks, being resilient, and accepting the strong support of the community. She also spoke of the great opportunities in Alaska whether choosing to go to college, entering the military or following a trade.

“Folks tell me that there is so much opportunity over the next 15 years coming to Alaska by way of large-scale infrastructure projects, defense, lots of other things. But it makes the Trans-Alaska Pipeline or the Gold Rush pale in comparison.”

With apologies to the men, Sande said “it’s a great time to be a girl.” She spoke about several commissioners in Alaska’s government who are women. And finally, she reminded graduates  that it’s okay to be different.

“I would also just encourage you to try to find your highest purpose. The things that excite you. Makes you animated when you’re talking about it. The things that inspire you.”

School Board President Stephen Bradford spoke broadly about the qualities that define Generation Z, its concern for equity and its willingness to take action. Bradford told the graduates that they are going out into a world that is politically and socially divided, with war, climate uncertainties and other unprecedented challenges..

“You’re the most caring of all generations. You must apply all your skills, education, compassion and resiliency to one last very important assignment that you need to undertake. You must save the world. Thank goodness the world has you guys.”

After the ceremony, the Kayhi class of 2022 boarded Ketchikan Duck Tour amphibious vehicles for a tour and transportation downtown for a parent-organized graduation parade.  Hundreds gathered along Ketchikan’s downtown cruise ship berths for the tradition that started in 2020 during the height of the COVID pandemic.