Moments before 63 young men and women were to attain diplomas, many gathered in the commons of Nikiski Middle-Senior High School to hug parents, straighten caps and place everlasting memories in a yearbook Mon-day night.
Friends, family and faculty gathered to witness the moment the class of 2000 had waited for. With gleeful smiles, 63 Nikiski graduates, wearing silver robes, proudly walked through the gymnasium to the rhythm of "Pomp and Circumstance" as the 11th class to graduate from the school.
To begin the ceremony, different graduates serenaded the crowd with spirited renditions of the "The Star-Spangled Banner," "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square" and "Sicilienne."
Heidi Lassen, salutatorian, stood at the podium and told the crowd that each and everyone can make a difference in another's life.
"Somewhere out there, someone believes in you," she said.
Class valedictorians Carrie Pattison, Magdalena Kendall, Ranell Johnson, Tony Mika and Mario Bird also gave graduation addresses.
The students took time to reminisce over past years, offer tips for future students on how to survive high school, and explain that high school is merely the appetizer of the seven-course meal of life.
Keynote speaker, Robert Bird, a teacher at the school, amused the audience with impersonations of Abraham Lincoln, Sean Connery and Winston Churchill, then gave an address that touched on the importance of free speech.
After the speeches came the moment the class had been waiting for.
Row by row, the class rose and walked onto the stage. With cheers following each name, the students shook hands and hugged the men and women presenting their diplomas: Donna Peterson, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District superintendent; and Debbie Mullins and Mike Chenault, school board members.
After the Madrigal Singers performed "It's So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday," the graduates turned their tassels and hurled their caps high, cheering and screaming in excitement.
Back in the school commons, the class of 2000 embraced friends, wiped away tears, posed for pictures and accepted gifts and praise.
For many, this day was the icing on the cake.
"This is the most important part of my life, up to date," said Thomas Mitchell.
With high school in the past, college is his future goal.
Darlene Leavitt also plans on attending college. She said, on a scale of one to 100, graduation night would be a 100 in her book.
"It feels great, I am so happy," she said.
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