With his cap transformed into an airplane it seemed fitting Dartanian Aldridge led out the 13 graduates of Cook Inlet Academy during their ceremony Sunday.
When reflecting on his time at CIA, a private Christian school he has attended since seventh grade, the jovial Aldridge said his senior year was phenomenal.
“Holy fun is all I can say,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of great memories here. I am looking forward to see what the future brings.”
Aldridge said his life goal is to become a pilot for the Alaska Wildlife Troopers.
With the nine guys in blue gowns and four ladies in white, the class of 2014 walked down to Pomp and Circumstance as parents, family and friends packed the school gymnasium on a sunny Mother’s Day.
The intimate graduation ceremony included personalized tables for each individual that displayed a hand-made quilt and items like sports metals, a collection of Hardy Boys books, fishing poles, photo albums and guitars. Aldridge displayed his four-wheeler.
CIA science teacher Kevin Leaf said the tables are a nice touch for every student to show a little about their history and fondest high school memories.
“It is a great class we are expecting great things from them,” he said.
Kelsey Tachick, one of three who graduated Summa Cum Laude, recited her essay about “What Christian Education Means to Me.” She said growing up in a small school has allowed her to build personally lasting friendships and given her a solid foundation for the rest of her life.
Tachick will attend Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Illinois, in the fall and follow her dream of being a Zoologist. The school mascot is a tiger, an animal she said she hopes to be able to work with someday.
“I love animals and look forward to be able to help them,” she said. “I’m thankful to my family, friends and teachers who have helped me become who I am today.”
Her mother Trina Tachick gave her a long hug after the ceremony and wiped tears of joy from her face. She said to be able to watch her daughter graduate high school on Mother’s Day is a special moment.
“I feel the teachers here have given her a solid Christian education,” she said. “I’m excited for here to pursue her dream in zoology.”
CIA principal Mary Rowley said this year’s graduates are some of the most emotionally mature kids she has come across. While a lot of them excelled in sports, they are also insightful thinkers with big hearts.
“They are the kind of people that will make the courageous decisions that will change the world,” she said. “They understand character is built one day at a time.”
Vice principal Gary Leiter gave the class words of wisdom on how to live a successful life and shared quotes from Robert Fulghum’s book, “All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten.”
“Share everything, play fair, don’t hit people … flush … take a nap every afternoon,” he said. “Sorry guys you spent 11 extra years in school for nothing.”
Caleb Coombes, who joined CIA freshman year, said going to a private school has been a unique experience unlike any other school. His favorite class was outdoor education. At the end of the class all the students brought their guns and went to a shooting range and had a great time doing something they enjoy.
Coombes will work on a fishing boat in Bristol Bay this summer to make some money to take the process technology course at Kenai Peninsula College. His father David Coombes said before he leaves for work this summer, the two fly out Monday to the Lower 48 and go on two-week motorcycle trip.
“Even if he doesn’t make any money at all it will still be an adventure,” David Coombes said. “We will have some fun goofing around before he goes fishing.”
Seth Davey, who graduated Cum Laude, has enlisted in the National Guard and is going to boot camp in August. He has aspirations of joining the Army Special Forces and the ambition to go through the rigorous process to become a Navy SEAL.
“I come from a very patriotic family. Every guy in my family has served,” he said. “More than that it was my own decision. I could do a lot of things in my life but I felt (being a Navy SEAL) is one of the hardest things I could do. That’s just who I am.”
Timothy Hills said his favorite memory from CIA was having the opportunity to play the drums and getting to know Mr. “Mike” Lyons, the former band teacher who passed away in 2011. He performed a drum solo during the ceremony, which brought the graduating class to their feet. Hills plans to attend the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs and pursue a degree in mechanical or electrical engineering.
Caleb Lyons and Adam Uchtman, who both graduated Summa Cum Laude with a grade point average that exceeded 4.0, have both attended CIA since kindergarten. Lyons will attend KPC and would like to be an accountant, while Uchtman plans to study Electrical Engineering at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas.
Four of the graduates played on the basketball team Uchtman, Lyons, Mylon Weems and Riley Solie. Weems, who was the last to receive his diploma, took a selfie photo on stage with his classmates in the background. He said he is planning on joining the Coast Guard.
Solie has joined the National Guard and will go to Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri for basic training in August.
Zachary Taplin received an athletic scholarship at Portland State for track and field and will continue competing in throwing events at the college level.
Courtney Snodgress plans to attend the University of Alaska Fairbanks to become a dental hygienist.
Erica McGahan, who attended CIA since preschool and graduated Magna Cum Laude, will attend KPC. Her goal is to pursue a business degree work and give back to the community.
Nicole Moffis, who played basketball her senior year plans to earn a business degree at KPC and will work over the summer to earn money.
“It’s a little nerve-wracking but we did it,” Moffis said. “Starting college this fall will be different but exciting to begin a new life chapter.”
Reach Dan Balmer at firstname.lastname@example.org