Kenai Central High School has given another class of Kardinals wings.
Ninety-three members of the Class of 2000 paraded into the auditorium Tuesday evening to claim their diplomas and mark the rite of passage into the adult world. Humor, gratitude and camaraderie marked the commencement exercises.
In keeping with school tradition, the students chose one of their own as senior class speaker. This year it was Matt Peters.
"Free at last," he began, quoting Martin Luther King Jr.
Peters combined witty allusions to memorable school events and personalities with serious acknowledgements and advice.
In the end, he urged his peers to keep friendships.
"It's important to have connections to post bail, watch your back or donate a kidney," he said.
The five valedictorians -- Lori Eastlick, Melinda Haring, Sara Beth Krein, Tessa Rhyner and Amanda Reynoldson -- teamed up with salutatorian Stacey Pault. The young women presented a humorous skit looking back at incidents that had jeopardized their coveted grade point averages, complete with tape recordings of sinister laughter from a teacher. The close calls taught them valuable lessons, they said.
"We have learned a few life skills," Krein said.
Jim Beeson was invited to give the commencement address. He teaches math, accounting and physical education and also coaches football and girls' basketball at the school.
His topical hairstyle was an eye catcher. Student Kim Goggia had shaved his head except for a big red-dyed "2000" and small black "class of." And when he began removing his pants on stage, he definitely had the audience's attention.
But after settling down in his trademark shorts, he delivered a serious, upbeat presentation on what he called "Beeson's 10 Steps to Success." Enlivened by anecdotes and specific details, his points were:
n Be yourself and proud of who you are;
n Remember your parents;
n Remember your teachers;
n Appreciate high school;
n Appreciate and be involved with your community;
n Enjoy your friends and be a good friend;
n Don't be afraid to take a few risks;
n Always look ahead, not back;
n Don't be afraid of a little hard work;
n Find a job you truly enjoy;
Beeson said he hoped the advice would help the students succeed in life, and he thanked them for helping him keep young at heart.
"Tonight is the final step of a 13-year voyage," he told the graduates. "Now you are considered young adults."
Gratitude was a recurring theme at the ceremony.
Principal Sam Stewart asked parents of the seniors to stand for a round of applause. Also singled out were the parents of the valedictorians and the school's three foreign exchange students. Speakers took the time to thank teachers, other school staff, people who inspired them and businesses that contribute to the school and its activities.
The quartet Fair Kenai sang an a capella version of "Lean On Me" with lyrics personalized to Kenai. Other musical performers for the evening were the KCHS Band, the KCHS Concert Choir and the instrumental duo of Randi Marie Canady and Josh Overturf. The senior slide show was compiled on computer this year by Stephanie Arbelovsky and Lacey Wisniewski.
The diplomas were presented by Superintendent Donna Peterson, school board members Deborah Germano, Susan Larned and Debra Mullins and past and present teachers Craig Jung, Liz Burck, James Davis and Nathan Kiel.
Other students participating in the ceremony were class Treasurer Jennifer Stewart and Vice President Cory Hershberger.
Joel Reemtsma and Josh Overturf made the closing remarks. They read a poem they had written recapping the year. It ended with, "We have a class full of friends in a place we call home." Then they closed with a benediction.
After the turning of the tassels, balloons of red, black and white cascaded from the ceiling. The commencement literally ended with a bang as cheering students popped the balloons and filed out of the auditorium to start their new lives.
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