Blue, gold and white balloons festooned the walls of the gymnasium at the Cook Inlet Academy on Sunday as a large crowd of family and friends came for the graduation ceremony of nine of the school's students.
Graduating were Anthony Agosti, Mandy Evans, Jessica Hall, Calder Hillyer, Luke Myers, Jacob Peterson, Shannon Powers, Akiko Toguchi and Miranda Zindel.
Around the room, tables were set up for each graduate with pictures, awards and trophies, class mementos and personal items and a poster board for those in attendance to write a brief message of congratulations to the seniors.
There was a posh spread of food and beverages that could contend with even the best country club banquet, including a cake iced with the image of the graduating class.
All the seniors had worked hard to be there, and all earned the accomplishment of a diploma, but one students wasn't always sure she would make it.
In many ways, Powers was a lot like the other high school seniors who graduated with her. She was active in sports, enjoyed socializing with friends and did her best to make good grades.
But for her, keeping her grade point average up didn't come easy. She had a hurdle to overcome that the rest of her class did not.
Powers suffers from dyslexia, a crippling learning disability that can hinder even the most intelligent and motivated children. For years, she struggled with reading, writing and arithmetic.
However, she recently overcame her disability, and although she had successes on the varsity basketball team and numerous triumphs competing in track at the state level, she said it was beating dyslexia that has meant the most to her.
"It has been my biggest accomplishment," she said.
Between her sophomore and junior year, Powers attended a school in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., that specializes in meeting the needs of children with dyslexia. It was there that the turn-around in her academic career occurred.
"Until I went there, nothing really worked. I would try stuff and it wouldn't work, I would try again, and it still wouldn't work," she said.
It was frustrating, she said, but Powers never gave up.
"They taught me the basics over again," she said. "Now I can read 400 pages in two days. Before, that would have taken me two months."
Assistance with her dyslexia wasn't the only thing Florida had to offer. Now that she's graduated from Cook Inlet Academy, Powers will attend the International Academy of Design and Technol-ogy in Tampa.
"I want to be a big name that everyone will know," she said in regards to her hopes of future success with her own line of clothing.
Powers seemed confident in her decision to move so far away from everything and everyone she's ever known. She said she hopes to make her dreams become reality.
"I can't stand it here," she said. "I've been born and raised in this small town, and I want to see what life is like in a big city."
As each day passes, she gets closer to her date of departure, and the dream becomes a little more real.
"It's just starting to set in that I'm leaving in July," she said. "It will be hard, but I'll try my best to make it."
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