SoHi grads fly the coop'

It's hitting me'

One spoke about that time freshmen year, another said he’s anxious to be done with high school and, further down the line of 122 high school seniors in blue robes and mortar boards and white stoles filing down the corridor behind the hockey rink walls in the Soldotna Sports Center, someone said, “You cry and I’ll cry.”


Beyond the covered rink walls Tuesday night, more than 400 people sat in chairs in the gym’s center and overhead in the bleachers, waiting. The room was loud with their voices.

But the Soldotna High School students couldn’t see the crowd through the rink walls. So they checked their smart phones. Adjusted their tassels. A few hugged.

They were graduating. They just had to wait for the music.

“It’s really, really sad,” 18-year-old Lacey Cashman said. The senior was standing next to her two best friends in a quite hallway underneath the stands. The other 119 seniors were in the hallway, too. They still had 15 minutes. “Every time we hang out, I’m like, ‘This is the last time we get to do this.’”

Her two friends, 18-year-old Jelly Nolden and 17-year-old Olivia Tice, stood next to her.

The three — friends for more that 5 years — will separate after the summer.

Cashman will go to the University of Oregon. She one day hopes to become a surgeon. Nolden plans to double major in medical lab and instruments technology at the University of Alaska Anchorage. And Tice, starting school at Cornell University in the fall, will study English and Literature, possibly journalism.

“We’re all super nerdy,” Cashman said.

Through their high school years, the three said, they were a tight group, each supporting the other. That is why they all did so well in school, Tice said, why they all have big goals. Her parents helped her, too, she said.

Another thing, Cashman said, other than their studiousness, that held them together: their “weirdness.”

“We only hang out with each other because we’re too weird for anyone else to handle,” Cashman said.

“Eighth grade science class,” Tice said — “Oh my gosh,” all three unanimously said, giggling.

“I don’t think I’m going to miss high school,” Cashman said, “But I’m going to miss my friends.”

But they look forward to leaving Soldotna, where they grew up together. Nolden said she is excited about college, and Tice wants to live in a larger community.

“It’s just such a small town,” Cashman said. “You don’t know what’s out there.”

When most students leave the Kenai Peninsula, they don’t come back, she said. But they will, she said.

Tice said she will miss her community’s sparse population and its silence. Cashman and Nolden said they will miss each other.

“Obviously growing up here is unreal,” Tice said. “Being able to hike up a mountain is a pretty unique experience.”

But they own iPhones, and they plan to FaceTime, group chat and Skype.

“We’ll figure it out,” Cashman said.”

About 15 minutes later, the three girls stood side-by-side in the middle of the throng.

They waited. And waited. Then, the music.

Tony Graham, vice principal of SoHi, said the first students in the line had three seconds. Then, high fiving each, he sent them off.

They went out in twos and threes, hand in hand, arms locked over shoulders, strolling, jaunting into flashing cameras and smiling parents and crying grandparents.

“It’s hitting me,” said a girl, beginning to cry at the head of the line.


Dan Schwartz can be reached at