Much of their high school career has been focused on independent studies, yet the Connections Home School Program class of 2013 donned black robes and caps and walked as a collective group Thursday to receive their honors at the Soldotna High School Auditorium.
Valedictorian Hope Steffensen shared her thoughts on how home-school students are individuals and not the sum of a whole.
“If we were a normal graduating class, I would start by reminiscing,” Steffensen said. “But we have taken our own educational paths. We are all unique.”
Steffensen was presented with several scholarships and plans to study law.
Students from throughout the Kenai Peninsula were honored during the commencement ceremony.
The audience was entertained by five musical performances from the students, which included a piano and vocal arrangement of Tom Petty’s “Free Fallin’” by Homer’s Mariah Stuart and a violin version of the Academy Award-winning ballad “Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen, performed by Lydia Arndt.
Arndt, who also delivered a valedictorian address to the class of 2013, mentioned that home-schooled students often follow another path.
“Our experiences have been different than the public school experiences,” she said.
Arndt plans to attend University of Alaska Fairbanks and peruse a degree in music education.
Fellow valedictorian Ian Haralson, who plans to attend Kenai Peninsula College in the fall, urged the seniors not to let past or future failures get in the way of their potential.
“I sincerely believe everyone of us can change the world with our efforts,” he said.
Coty Anderson, who plans to attend KPC in the fall and audition for “American Idol,” performed “No Boundaries” for the seniors and their guests.
While many seniors accept their diplomas from faculty and school board members, Connections principal Lee Young gave parents an opportunity to present their student with the honors.
“We look at the home-school parent as the students’ primary teacher,” he said.
Young said parents have been participating in the ceremony for the past 17 years, since the program’s inception.
As each student’s name was called, Young shared their hobbies, accomplishments and plans for the future. Many of the home-schooled students participated in drama and forensics, group sports and music as well as independently working on their studies. Others were able to attend local college classes to help them with their future careers.
Several graduates plan to attend KPC, others have plans to attend AVTEC-Alaska’s Institute of Technology, and some plan to go forth as missionaries or enlist in the armed services.
Angel Humphrey enrolled in Connections in the middle of tenth grade and said the Connections staff was helpful with her transition.
“I love home-school,” she said. “My grades skyrocketed.”
With her future before her, she plans to take a year off, and then attend college in Oregon.
“Now I want to be an elementary school teacher,” she said.
But when it is time for her to settle down and have children of her own, Humphrey said she wants to follow the path of her positive home-school experiences.
“I want to be a home-school teacher to my own children,” she said.
Education is on the minds of many students, still others are eager to get out and start working.
During his senior year, Dustin Rediske was able to take classes and earn his welding certificate at KPC. He plans to attend UAA classes in the fall to achieve his goals of becoming a welder.
Grayson McCaughey said if it were not for the staff at Connections, he would not be wearing the cap and gown
McCaughey said he suffered with an illness for three and one half years, which caused him to fall behind with his studies. He said the staff helped him with his studies and make it to this day.
With school behind him, McCaughey said he will head to the North Slope next week to work for Udelhoven.
Sara J. Hardan can be reached at email@example.com.