Laughter, cheers, tears mark Alternative School ceremony

Posted: Monday, May 20, 2002

They didn't have a keynote speaker. They didn't have their valedictorian or salutatorian deliver addresses to the class. They just had fun.

Friday evening, the walls of the Kenai Alternative School echoed with the sounds of cheering, shouting, laughter and a bit of crying as 21 seniors and one administrator bid their fond farewells to their school.

"To all my fellow graduates, I hope you succeed in life," said valedictorian Allen Koerber during a segment in the ceremony where members of the Class of 2002 were given the chance to express themselves to their classmates, family, friends and teachers.

Although only a few students took advantage of the opportunity at the podium, the comments that did arise ranged from serious to silly.

"I just want to thank the teachers," said graduate Raymond Tepp, "for always going beyond that extra mile for us."

Joel Milette approached the microphone, accompanied by shouts and applause from the audience, to break up the sobriety of the moment.

"I just wanted to talk into the mike," he said with a grin, as his fellow graduates rewarded his stunt with laughter.

The staff recognized each of the graduates with comical awards personalized to their individual characteristics -- the "P.E. Procrastination" award and the "Best Excuse" award, to name a few -- while Principal Dennis Dunn described how each student earned their specific distinction. And the audience watched a slide show of the graduating class during the year accompanied by Bob Marley and the Wailers' song "Is this love."

But Dunn's staff changed the direction of the ceremony, recognizing the administrator who, after five years at the school, will be leaving next fall for the principal position at Kenai Central High School.

Dunn was visibly moved when he again stepped to the microphone to speak to the graduates and heard a student shout out from the audience, "we'll miss you."

"If you're lucky in life, you get to work the way I have been able to work," Dunn said between tears. "When you get to do something that makes a difference, there's no greater reward. Do not stop until you find something that means something to you."

The graduates received their diploma folders and a yellow rose, which they were instructed to turn over.

"You've all gotten here with help from somebody," said school secretary Phyllis Halstead.

"Now we'd like you to present that somebody with that rose."

Finally, prompted by Milette and fellow graduate Jannelle White, the seniors moved their tassels from right to left, signifying their graduation.

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