Daniel Baldwin will miss his three friends, Garren Lucas, Samuel Janorschke and Kade Cooper.
Now a high school graduate, the 18-year-old will enter the Army.
Lucas, 18, will leave on a two-year mission, and 18-year-old Janorschke and 17-year-old Cooper, following summer, will go to college in Fairbanks.
“This is who I hang out with,” said Baldwin, his three friends by his side during the Skyview High School graduation Monday night.
“Obviously I’m going to miss home,” he said. “I’ve never been out of Alaska, so it’s going to be a whole new experience.”
Seventy-two students graduated at the Soldotna Sports Center, and more than 200 people came out to watch.
Recent graduate TC Hatten’s family sat in the corner of the sports center.
“I’m proud of him,” said his sister, Sherika Hatten, who graduated from Skyview last year. “I never thought he could of (graduated high school). He hated school. … I cried when he told me he finished his classes.”
His father was proud, also.
“It’s exciting. It makes a parent happy,” Travis Hatten said. “I’m glad they’re doing it. I wish I could have done it.”
While the Hatten’s didn’t drive far to watch TC graduate, Kayla Scroggins said some of her family came all the way from Tennessee to watch her graduate.
“I’m so excited. I’m super stoked,” 18-year-old Scroggins said.
Scroggins said she will not miss school, but she has fond memories of her time on the softball team.
“They probably mean the world to me,” she said. “I love those girls.”
She plans to move to Tennessee, where her sister lives, and attend cosmetology school.
Many students in her graduating class, she said, she grew up with from kindergarten.
Juniors Mykaela Rybak, 17, and Liz McGlothen, 16, will miss many of the seniors graduating.
“It’s going to be sad losing them,” Rybak said, “but they’re going on to better things.”
Both students said they have many memories of the seniors.
Rybak said Rachel Beckmann, a senior in her choir, is a gifted singer.
“I just hope she never stops singing because, if she becomes famous, I will not be surprised,” she said.
McGlothen agreed that Beckmann is very good. She also said Shelbe Holben, another senior in the National Honors Society, always helped her with her NHS programs.
Having moved from Oregon last year, she said, so many other seniors helped her out.
“It was pretty cool having them just welcome me,” she said.
After the graduates had handed their roses to parents and teachers and thrown their mortarboards, Jessie Graham walked over to his family. His grandmother’s eyes were wet with tears.
His uncle, Frank Bush, had his arm over his nephew.
“Man, it’s different,” Bush said. “I’m really proud of him. He made it through. Now he takes his first step into manhood.”
Through middle and high school, Graham had missed 4 years of school, Graham said.
“I was a troubled kid,” Graham said. “I was never in school. … This seems like a miracle.”
But he caught up, he said, and he graduated with extra credits.
Now, he said, he will leave for the North Slope. His uncle arranged an electrician job for him, he said. And he looks forward to the responsibility.
“I’m tired of being seen as a little boy and I want to be a man,” he said, “and I want to fill that page.”
Dan Schwartz can be reached at email@example.com.