It’s usually not cool to wear the same outfit as one of your parents, but sometimes there are exceptions.
That was the case when a father and son from Nikiski both graduated wearing matching caps and gowns at Kenai Peninsula College’s commencement ceremony Thursday night at Kenai Central High School.
“It just kind of worked out that here we are walking (together),” Robert Pepper said. “It’s a pretty unique accomplishment.”
Robert Pepper enrolled at KPC in 2010 in its occupational safety and health program. Robert previously worked on the North Slope and will be returning there, but this time he will be giving presentations and fielding phone calls and emails.
His son, Chris Pepper, has been a student at KPC since 2008. He started as an elementary education major, but switched to liberal studies this school year to broaden his options and graduate sooner. He plans to work in the community with early childhood programs.
“It’s going to be weird because it’ll be new people and a whole new environment,” Chris said, “but I feel like I’m ready. Whatever the next step is, I know I’m ready.”
Chris worked in student services and Robert worked at the library on campus, so they would see one another at each other’s jobs occasionally.
“Sometimes I would go in the library and be loud purposely because he’s my dad,” Chris said. “What’s he going to do?”
The duo would treat one another to lunch at school and whenever they passed in the halls, they would high-five.
They’re both proud of the other’s accomplishments. Chris said his mom, Marti, is also happy her son and husband are graduating.
Robert said it was a challenge returning to school as an older student and years removed from the learning environment. But it was really refreshing, he said.
“I didn’t realize how much I was needing to be in a learning environment until I got in one and then I realized it was just great,” he said.
Elizabeth Cooper and Lori Lehigh also both attended KPC as older students. They graduated with associate’s degrees in general business. Both felt they were at points in their lives where the timing was right.
“I got laid off,” Cooper said, “so it was a good time in life to complete my degree.”
“I have a son in high school, and I wanted to achieve this to be an influence on him,” Lehigh said.
KPC graduated more than 145 students — a new record for the college. Graduates received degrees ranging from GEDs to masters. More than 100 graduates received GEDs. Suzie Kendrick, advancement program manager at KPC, said those GED graduates are very important to the college because many continue their education with KPC.
Raymond Cox, 16, is doing just that. When he moved to Soldotna with his family, he was behind in school credits. He said getting his GED through KPC was the fastest route to getting a high school degree. Cox plans to return to KPC to study process technology — one of the college’s most popular associate’s degrees.
“I wouldn’t go anywhere else,” Cox said.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.