Footsteps measuring a lifetime of accomplishments carried Ninilchik High School senior Brieanna Leman onto the stage Sunday afternoon. Within seconds, her hard-earned diploma securely in hand, Leman's high school days were behind her and the future lay ahead.
She is the seventh generation in a family that dates back to the founding of Ninilchik in the mid-1800s. Her paternal grandfather, the late Harry Leman, was one of Ninilchik's first two graduating high school seniors in the village's territorial school during the 1940s.
On Sunday, basking in the proud gaze of her parents, Butch and Terri Leman, and cheered on by family and friends, she followed in her grandfather's wake.
"Change," she said.
Heading for the University of Alaska Anchorage this fall, Leman's sights are set on seeing the world. She has already traveled the east and west coasts, including a trip with the Close-Up Foundation in 2001 to Washington, D.C., but her dream extends beyond U.S. boundaries.
"I want to go to Venice."
Judging by her achievements, Leman has what it takes to make things happen. Her basketball prowess helped the Wolverine girls' varsity basketball team become 2A state champs in 2000, 2001 and 2002. Her sophomore year, Leman was named the most versatile player on the school's volleyball team and received the Coach's Award for her basketball abilities.
During her junior year, she was named the most improved player on the basketball team and the most valuable player of the volleyball team, of which she was a co-captain. Chosen for the all-tournament teams in basketball and volleyball as a junior, she also was selected for the region all-tournament basketball team.
In track and field, Leman was the third-place regional discus champion in 2001 and had the best field performance for the year.
Her grades placed her on the honor roll and her grasp of math led to her tutoring other students in trigonometry. She also served as senior class president and if there were school activities to be coordinated, Leman took charge.
"Your academic abilities and contribution to the improvement of student life are a credit to the University (of Alaska Anchorage) as well as to yourself," wrote Karrie Schatz, of UAA, in a letter awarding Leman the UAA Chancellor's Tuition Waiver, given to students with good academic abilities who contribute to the improvement of student life.
In April, at a banquet in Anchorage, Leman was one of 20 students from across the state to receive a Spirit of Youth award. In the "Service to Peers" category, she was recognized for organizing numerous alcohol and drug prevention events in Ninilchik, as well as a benefit to help pay for a friend's transplant operation.
"This was about who I am," Leman said, comparing that award to others she has received.
"I'm just so proud of her," a smiling Terri Leman said of her daughter. "She's a leader. She's made good choices and she's responsible. She's a good girl."
Wiping at tears, her father confessed a mixed reaction to his daughter's graduation.
"I tend to want to freeze time," he said.
And in some ways, in spite of the changes swirling around her, parts of Leman's life seem frozen in time. Early Sunday morning, only hours before the afternoon's graduation ceremonies, she was up at 4:30 to report to work at the Deep Creek boat launch, sending others off to fish the waters her family has fished for generations.
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