Connections, a home-school program of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, offers students from all backgrounds a chance at obtaining a high school diploma.
Connections offers financial aid for those students who want to earn college credit while still completing high school work. One of the 2011 graduates, Stephen Kimbrell, started to take advantage of this opportunity his sophomore year.
“With Connections, it was nice to have all those resources available to me, as far as the money, I would never have been able to take those college classes on my own,” Kimbrell, 18, said.
Kimbrell said he plans to stay at Kenai Peninsula College for at least a year and get his prerequisites out of the way before attending engineering school.
Connections allows students to work at their own pace. In some cases, students can finish with their diploma earlier than others. Melissa O’Neill graduated a year early, and at 16, is preparing for Bethleham College and Seminary where she will participate in a two-year Bible Program.
“It’s been a lot of work this last year, cramming two years into one,” O’Neill said. “All my life has been school.”
The feeling of being done with high school has yet to sink in, O’Neill said.
“It will sink in when I leave for college,” O’Neill said.
There were six student musical performers at the graduation, O’Neill performed “Reverie” on the piano.
Another musical performer, Mariah Campbell, from Anchor Point, has been working three jobs and teaching herself the curriculum. Campbell, 18, says that her parents are gone during the majority of her learning, so she has ended up teaching herself.
“Being home-schooled is iffy. My parents weren’t there a whole lot, so it’s kind of like teaching yourself, and teaching yourself calculus can be a pain,” Campbell said.
Campbell has been working three jobs and played basketball for Ninilchik School in addition to her studies, something very rare for a high school student. Campbell received the University of Alaska Scholar Award and plans to attend college at the KPC Katchemak Bay campus in Homer to pursue auto mechanics, and then transfer to University of Alaska, Fairbanks to study auto restoration.
Timothy Palm, 20, graduated from Connections after attending a non-accredited private school. He said his aunt motivated to him receive his diploma, so he came up to Alaska a couple of months ago from California.
“My aunt was the one that told me, ‘Getting a diploma is the diving board into the pool of life,’” Palm said.
Palm needed his high school diploma so he could join the Coast Guard. He said they would not accept a GED. With his diploma in hand, Palm is set to start basic training for the Coast Guard in September.