High school graduations are bittersweet affairs, mixing tears and exultation. This year, Skyview High School's Class of 2002 shed a few extra tears for the events of Sept. 11 and roared back with Panther pride in their nation and school.
Monday evening, 138 seniors took the stage at the Soldotna Sports Center to receive diplomas.
The new venue allowed unlimited seating and served as a reminder that Skyview is the Kenai Peninsula's largest high school.
Dave Carey, teacher and mayor of Soldotna, set the tone as the first guest speaker.
"My primary message to you tonight comes from the Bible: Be not afraid," he told the students.
"... To live courageously, remember you are not alone."
This year the school produced a bumper crop of nine, straight-A valedictorians: Desirae Dix, Summer Engler, Jinnie Hanson, Christine Hayes, Shari Isaak, Roxanne Kotzin, Katie Lockwood, Michelle Smith and Laura Tarbox. Each took a brief turn at the lectern. Quoting a variety of sources from the Bible to Dr. Seuss, they spoke of memories, optimism and aspirations. In conclusion, they tossed paper airplanes into the crowd to symbolize the journeys ahead.
Salutatorian Amanda McKinley had her title all to herself. Telling an anecdote about a businessman whose product became a national sensation after numerous failures, she urged her classmates to work hard and persevere.
Math teacher Randy Sparks was the keynote speaker.
He went through the class list alphabetically, commenting on his memories of students he had known. His humorous insights drew laughter, groans and at least one vociferous denial from the senior section.
He wound up his advice to them with the admonition: "If you don't do anything else in life, love someone. And let someone love you. Class of 2002, I love you."
The video show included a segment on Sept. 11 in addition to the usual school memories. The audience's somber reflection gave way to students' cheers as it showed President George W. Bush speaking of national resolve and patriotic decorations the students made.
The Skyview Swing Choir, Katie Lockwood, Stephanie Morrison and Neiland Darling provided live music for the ceremony. Morrison and Darling each performed original songs they had written for the occasion.
Other students who spoke were Jeni Toliver, Charisse Keene, Ryan Colton, Jessika Truesdell, Angel Hollers and Bethany Thornton.
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