Skyview High School

Maybe it was the customized flourescent shades, the beachballs or the super-wide grins and occasional dance moves that gave it away.


Maybe it was the brief, but fierce light-saber battle as soon-to-be graduates filed to their seats at the Soldotna Sports Center on May 22.

Between goofy inside jokes and the purple-haired keynote speaker, Skyview students managed to pack as much individuality and good-natured weirdness as possible into the short ceremony celebrating their graduation and imminent release from high school into what several called "the real world."

Byron Weeks, a Skyview science teacher who delivered the keynote address, sported a long brightly colored beard and panther paw shaved into the back of his head.

He drew a lot of laughs from students who later made their way across the stage to get their diplomas and stepped out of line to hug him and share a personal moment. His speech was short and simple, but thunderously applauded by the student section.

"Up here, being around bears, I found out that you don't have to be the fastest runner in the world to get away from a bear, you just have to be faster than at least one person you're with," he said. "Really, success is the same thing. You're not going to do everything perfect every time. I'm not saying don't strive for perfection, but the real key is you just need to be better than most people around you."

The ceremony became interactive when students were asked to take a rose they were handed as they stepped off of the stage from getting their diplomas, and hand it to the most influential person in their lives.

Britanie Whipple's mom Sunee Woodgeard, of Soldonta, couldn't keep from crying when Whipple promptly brought the flower to her. Several other mothers in the room found themselves in similar positions.

Among the light saber enthusiats, Kyle Pietro, Alex Rodriguez, Logan Chumley, DJ Diaz and Jeff Knott, none of them could really decide who had come up with the idea. The group walked out together and hid the sabers underneath their robes before jumping at each other and scattering the neatly ordered lines of students waiting to take their seats before the ceremonies.

Some students shared private moments with individual family members after the ceremony, like Nathan Penrod who leaned in close to chat with his father Michael Penrod as the two stood in the middle of several hundred people.

Michael said he was extremely thankful to have his oldest son graduate and ready to head out into the world. The family is taking a canoe trip to celebrate before Nathan attends Kenai Peninsula College.

Nathan said he plans to work on the North Slope and make enough money ot buy a house.

"Then, I've got it pretty much," he said.

The idea, he said, was to be on his own.

Olivia Velazquez-Alarcon had her life plan set out as well, although she doesn't know where or when she'll start it. She knows she wants to open a coffee shop.

"I plan to take a coffee tour of Washington State, it's a coffeeholics wonderland," she said. "I'm going to go to various areas and check out places to open a shop. I love making coffee, it's my passion."

The glittered-covered brunette laughed when she talked about being a coffee fanatic and said her current job at Starbucks helps indulge her passion.

Other students found themselves surrounded by family and unable to get a moment alone, like Carl Hatten whose Polynesian family loaded him up with so many brightly colored candy and flower-decorated leis he could barely see over the top.

"It's not real yet," he said as he fiddled with an envelope he'd just been handed. "About 100 times today I've said to myself 'I'm graduating today."

The black envelope turned out to be a letter he'd written to himself in the first hour of his first day in high school. He had no clue what was in it.

"This is the coolest present," he said.


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