Awash in a sea of blue and gold caps and gowns, speakers at Ninilchik High School's Sunday graduation ceremony took their cue from the class motto, "If you can dream it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it."
"Dreams are for dreamers," said valedictorian Katie Schollenberg. "Dreamers have to wake up and make their dreams a reality."
Salutatorian Janelle Moerlein stressed the inner resources needed to choose paths for the future.
"What lies behind and what lies ahead are tiny matters compared to what lies within us," she said.
Seniors went through the crowded multipurpose room, paying tribute to family and friends with long-stemmed red roses. Eyes brimmed with tears as the graduates embraced those who had helped them achieve this milestone in their lives.
A slide presentation opened a storehouse of memories created during the years the graduating class has shared. Tiny preschoolers in dress-up clothes smiled from the screen. Snapshots showed basketball players celebrating victories, dances, swimming parties, friends clasping hands and arm in arm.
Commencement speaker Chris Hanson, high school science teacher and coach of the Wolverine boy's varsity basketball team, kept his comments short.
"No one's here to listen to me talk," he said. "They came to see you walk."
His top 10 pieces of advice began with "stop and smell the roses," included Mark Twain's caution to "never let formal education get in the way of your learning," and ended with "Gray hair is a crown of splendor attained by a righteous life."
Relying on the lyrics of "I Will Remember You," senior Crystal Dionne sang, "I will remember you. Will you remember me? Don't let your life pass you by. Weep not for the memories."
As Principal Michael Wetherbee called graduates' names and handed out diplomas, tears momentarily dried, replaced by flashing cameras and congratulatory cheers.
Wetherbee also acknowledged foreign exchange student Azael Loredo-Gonzalez of Mexico, presenting him with an Alaska state flag signed by members of the senior class.
Loredo-Gonzalez removed the gold tassel from his cap and proudly held it high. His classmates, friends and the community of Ninilchik responded with thunderous applause.
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