Tuesday night, the 114 members of the Soldotna High School graduating class of 2001 entered the gymnasium in waves of two and three dressed in gowns of light and navy blue. Principal Sylvia Reynolds commented that this was a strong class. She said they were wonderful and unique in different ways, athletically, artistically.
"I'm going to miss them," she said.
Graduate Linzy Mullican recalled the evolution of the class from grade school to the night's graduation. We have been together through grade school, through junior high school -- where we were all in love -- and through high school. Mullican was grateful for her family's support the last 18 years.
Salutatorian William Moiles, recounting all he had learned from his classmates, said he had been dreading graduation, hoping he would never lose contact with his classmates. He said he wished he could squeeze the past in a ball and put it in his pocket to carry with him.
Valedictorians Kara Merrill, Megan Newbould, Lucas Petersen and Tasha Zsoter shared the hopes and inspiration they had found as they grew with the class of 2001.
Merrill said after all the years they had been together, all the days they had walked together that "this time we won't walk together." She said in their future, there will be others to walk with them.
"Life owes you nothing," she said. "Have purpose or you will never reach your destination."
Newbould noted that mental strength is as necessary as physical strength. Recalling the time SoHi's cross country team beat rival Skyview, she said the race was won in the last yards with mental strength over opponents that were perhaps physically stronger.
"Devote ourselves to excellence," she said.
Zsoter asked the class to look ahead, toward accomplishments and opportunities in the future.
"Make the most of everything in life and try new and exciting things," she said.
She asked the class to be forgiving, to love and be loved and to believe in themselves.
Petersen challenged the class to write their own book.
"Make it a novel you can't put down," he said. "A ship in the harbor will never get to sea. Write a book that is more exciting each day,"
The keynote speaker, head girls' basketball coach Mark Tuter, that the class of 2001 had been a part of his life since he was a substitute teacher in the second grade. He also reflected on his role as speaker.
Thirty-two years ago in Chico, Calif., Tuter said, he was number 269 in a class of more than 300 and doesn't remember the guest speaker's identity. All he remembers, he said, is a check, a fishing rod, a party with gifts and an uncle who said, "Life is what you make it."
"This is your life. The most important thing is you. You are the key element. You are the key factor," Tuter said.
"There are certain variables in life. Tonight is just the starting point."
Diplomas were awarded by school board members Dr. Nels Anderson and Sammy Crawford, principal Sylvia Reynolds, assistant superin-tendent Ed McLain, counselor Sara Moore, and teacher Mike Druce.
Musical selections of the evening were performed by a variety of students.
Merrill, Newbould, Jessica Northcutt and Amanda McKay sang "Wide Open Spaces."
"I Turn to You," was sung by Sierra Mello.
Stewart Blakeslee, Jared Carlson, Ryan Hatfield and Petersen sang "Brothers Forever."
Senior officers Toni Gilbert, Aimee Jaillet, Newbould and Zsoter gave special recognition to counselor Moore, honoring her as a friend and mentor who has "encouraged them so much."
Each graduate was then asked to present a flower to those who have had the greatest impact on their life.
After a slide show presentation by Lucy Kriner, the tassels were turned and the waves of blue walked together for the last time.
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