Most of the Connections Home-school students got their diplomas in the same way they got their educations, from their parents.
While the home-schooling program's ceremony was much longer than other local high school ceremonies, mini-biographies about each student, short, heartfelt and sometimes tear-filled speeches alongside surprise scholarship announcements kept the May 24 afternoon ceremony engaging.
Connections Principal Lee Young said the program was designed to include the parents as an homage to their participation in their children's education.
"We do this because you parents are so instrumental in the teaching of your children, you folks are the teachers and what better opportunity than all the culmination of your hard work as a family, to come up and be here as part of the presentation," he said.
John Akers, valedictorian, told students to remember those who shaped them.
"The paths leading to this day are as varied as the number of graduates," he said. "But what we all have in common is that we couldn't have accomplished this feat on our own. Parents and family members helped us along the way, guiding us to the end of this chapter in our lives."
Several musical performances including two piano solos, a band made up of Connections students called "Down Hill from Here," a guitar and vocal performance as well as a xylophone solo broke up the ceremony and kept the audience engaged.
As the lights dimmed and the audience sat watching a slide show of then and now pictures four people, laden with big black bags of balloons, crept slowly across a catwalk coming to stop directly above the newly graduated students.
When the slide show came to an end the ceremony was pronounced over, the students gave a tremendous roar and threw their hats into the air as the balloons showered down.
As the group slowly splintered to join their families, Anisia Polushkin Basargin lifted her long floor-length blue dress and walked slowly up the aisle toward her family.
She flipped the end of a matching blue scarf over her shoulder and shrugged as she talked about what she might do next.
"I may go to college," Basargin said. "I could do nursing or accounting."
She said there were a lot of jobs available for nurses, but she loved math so accounting would be a good alternative if she decided she didn't like taking care of people.
Shameka Nelson moved to Alaska from Portland to graduate. She spends her free time dog mushing.
"I'm really excited," she said. "I"m just free, free, free, free at last."
She said would attend the San Francisco School of the Arts in the fall.
Mark Wackler, high school advisor in the Connections Soldotna office said he appreciated the personal nature of the ceremony and thought the fact that students who had very individualized educational experiences could meet and form close friendships was inspiring.
"I thought it was neat to see how many parents chose to come up and give diplomas to the students," he said.
Marie-Andree Cimon, of Homer, attended the ceremony to see her friend Robert Way graduate and said the whole thing was much different than her "impersonal" graduation.
It was her first American graduation and the native Canadian said it was more of a cultural experience than what she thought of as a traditional graduation.
"I thought they did a good job to honor them," she said of the students. "I thought it was like a movie, with the music and the hats thrown in the air."