"When you have a class this small, they're all unique," said guidance counselor Jill Leiter referring to Cook Inlet Academy's nine graduates of 2012.
The intimate graduation ceremony had the students crying and laughing throughout. All of the students agreed; they were more than friends. They were family.
"Just being so small (of a class), we're basically family," said 17-year-old Jacob Boudreaux. "We all hang out outside of school, and we care about each other. We all know each other really, really well."
"We're more than classmates," said 16-year-old Elizabeth Dailey. "We look out for each other. I think that's really cool."
Dailey said she was feeling every emotion possible during her May 13 graduation.
"It's exciting and scary at the same time, but I'd go with mostly happy," she said.
Her classmates shared the same sentiments. Most said they were eager -- albeit a little frightened -- to begin the second period of life.
"I'm excited to start a new chapter in life, and just see where the future will take me," said Angela Uchtman, who graduated Summa Cum Laude (grade point average higher than 4.0).
"I'm a bit scared about moving on with my life, seeing what life has in store for me," Boudreaux said.
"I'm not too scared," said Chloe Nelson. "I think it will all work out... hopefully."
Uchtman plans to study equine dentistry through a program in Wyoming. Then, in the spring of 2013, she'll return to the Kenai Peninsula and enroll in business and graphic design classes at Kenai Peninsula College.
Class favorite and school coach Justin Franchino was the ceremony's speaker. He grabbed the attention of his students and the audience with a poem detailing the qualities of the class.
"She'll fend for herself off no one she's moochin', the one I call Heather, you call Ms. Angie Uchtman," he said. "Off to Wyoming to become an equine dentist, an occupation not many can claim to have apprenticed. A great daughter, and sister, student athlete and friend, God has great things in store for you around every bend.
"And I know that your dad looking down from above, just couldn't be prouder or have for you more love."
After spending a year at KPC, Boudreaux plans to complete his undergraduate studies at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Once he earns a bachelor's degree, he wants to attend medical school in the Lower 48, he said.
Franchino poeticized fondly about this young man and his ambitions.
"Then there's the best smelling, our class kitty cat, who's ticked 'cause his hair got messed up by that hat," he said. "With biceps a' bulgin' this Cajun's ragin' to go, the best chapel song leader, Mr. Jacob Boudreaux.
"Or should I say doctor, which is what you want to be. Maybe some day you can work on my hips and fix me. I've watched you grow up from a boy to a man, you're thoughtful and humble, and you look good with a tan. Your parents did a fine job, you got a good brain in your head, which is why I have no doubt you'll be the first to be wed."
Dailey, who attended CIA since third grade, said she'd do whatever she wants to do and is glad "compulsory education" is finished. The 16 year old plans to take classes at KPC for year. She then plans to attend Savannah College of Arts and Design with a major in fashion marketing and management.
"First, let's pick on the youngest of you, who at 16 years old gets to graduate, too," Franchino said, begging his poem. "She did four years of work in three and did it daily, and that's not too shabby Ms. Elizabeth Dailey."
Nelson, like many high school graduates, is uncertain about what she wants to do. Hopefully, pursue nursing, she said.
The nine CIA graduates leave behind a legacy of mentorship at the school, which includes grades K-12, said Leiter.
"You'll see the seniors walking around with preschoolers on their shoulders," she said. "They're big brothers and sisters to them."