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Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Levi Newell posed for photographs with friends and family after Connections Homeschool Program's graduation ceremony, Wednesday, May 21, at Soldotna High School.
Photo by Kelly Sullivan/ Peninsula Clarion Levi Newell posed for photographs with friends and family after Connections Homeschool Program's graduation ceremony, Wednesday, May 21, at Soldotna High School.

For many Connections Homeschool Program students, their graduation ceremony is the first time they’re in the same room as their classmates. However, each student gets the chance to learn about his or her fellow graduates.

Principal Lee Young dedicates time at every ceremony for announcing the achievements of each graduate, before they walked across the illuminated staged to take their diplomas from the hands of their family.

Ethan Veldstra’s was a long list that included his favorite pastimes, welding and flying. He said without his education he would not have been able to pursue both, which were done through college programs approved by Connections.

Alex Knudtson tailored his education to fit his current, and fluctuating location. As an international tour guide, his mother tends to be on the move.

With a flexible schedule Knudtson was able to join her much of the time, but self-motivation was essential. Over the years he visited Africa, Asia, Central America and Europea.

While traveling through Egypt, Greece and Italy, Knudtson’s teachers created a curriculum focusing on ancient civilizations, allowing him to physically witness the places he was reading about.

However, learning wasn’t always easy for Knudtson.

“I would be very much up the creek without a paddle if I hadn’t been homeschooled,” Knudtson said.

Knudtson still plans to travel, but for now it will be by boat. He is in the process of obtaining his captain’s license, so he can work internationally on fishing or charter boats.

Donna Smith also took advantage of the flexible schedule for traveling. For her, time away meant the chance to perfect her Spanish.

Smith’s mother has been teaching her the language since she was little.

In high school the skill propelled her into the role of translator for Glacierview Baptist Church in Homer, on trips to South America. Locals would believe it was her first language.

For some students, the flexibility meant customizing their curriculum.

Cassandra Burkhardt said she has fears she would never graduate. After having a son three years ago, she started homeschooling, which allowed her to create a schedule that worked for both her and her child.

From here, Burkhardt said she will either start medical school or business education at a community college or University of Anchorage Alaska, but she is still figuring a few things out.

David Coe said the nontraditional approach to academics allowed him to process learning materials at his own pace. If he needed to spend more time on a subject he was able to, or speed up when his comprehension called for it.

Coe said he is studying art in the fall at UAA. He is still unsure about where it will take him. Painting, graphic art and teaching are all possibilities.

Victoria McCormick said her education allowed her the time to discover her passion. At KPC next fall she plans to study childhood development, which she would not have figured out it if not for homeschooling.

Jessie Alward said she felt very accomplished with her studies, which have led to attendance at Shasta Bible College in Redding, California next fall.

Even with a revised education, Alward said she could not have finished school without her parents by her side.

Kelly Sullivan can be reached at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com.

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