"No matter where we are now, we all have to find our own way," Kenai Central High School senior Dane Myers told his fellow graduates Thursday night.
And with that, the class of 2002 was sent into the real world.
One hundred three graduates walked across the stage in the Renee Henderson Auditorium to collect their diplomas, the fruit of four years of academic labor. Myers, the class speaker, delighted his fellow graduates with several quips about the sometimes trying, sometimes humorous life of a high-schooler.
"They were the longest, most tedious years of my life. But they were the good kind of long. Not sports banquet kinda long though. More like the plane trip to Hawaii kinda long. ... In fact, I have a ticket to Hawaii right now," said Myers, to roars of laughter.
At times it was the ceremony itself that seemed to be stretching the limits of time. After two and a half hours of music, speakers and a special slide show, it would be hard to fault the seniors if they began to get anxious. However, when it came time for them to march across the stage and take their diplomas, each graced the stage wearing the same matching grin.
Keynote speaker Jim Davis, a math teacher at KCHS, may have offered the best advice of the night. He told the seniors to go out and face the world head on, but never forget where home is.
"The big cities might have more to offer, but don't forget how good Kenai is," Davis said.
He then related some advice about money management after high school.
"You're going to realize the value of a quarter when you are all out of clean clothes and you spent all your money on lottery tickets," Davis said. "They call it the lottery, but really it's a tax on people who are bad at math."
Following the ceremony, most of the graduates looked more than ready to take some chances in the future. Between hugs and pictures, many stood in small groups, talking about plans for the future. One young man, standing just out of earshot of his parents, may have summed up the graduates' feelings of freedom best.
"I don't know what I'm gonna do this summer," he told his friends, "but I'm not going home tonight."
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