Successfully moving on to life's next step was a common thread at Homer High School commencement exercises Monday, as tribute was paid to retiring faculty and well-wishes were given to graduating seniors. For some seniors, those words herald the future. Others, like Neese, already have incorporated hard-won success into their lives. In May, Neese completed the certified nursing assistant program at Kachemak Bay Campus, Kenai Peninsula College.
The three other valedictorians Joseph Hoanin, Adrian Ryan and Katie Gavenus addressed the audience.
Hoanin drew laughs with a Kurt Vonnegut quote: "True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country." His classmates' ability to lead is not something that causes him concern, Hoanin pointed out. "It is the attitude this school inspires that is so unique," he said.
Ryan thanked retiring math teacher Bill Craine, science instructor Stan Eller, language arts instructor Loraine Murphy, theater arts instructor Lance Petersen and band instructor Bill Searle. Cheers greeted Eller, the commencement speaker. Eller completed his 20-year Homer High School career with simple instructions for the graduates: Work hard; do good; be happy.
"We will always be here for you and we will always welcome you back," he said, referencing community support. However, he stressed, "You have to make it or break it on your own."
Neese knows the truth of Eller's words. This is her second graduation ceremony this month, having been awarded nursing assistant certification at KBC commencement exercises on May 4.
Earlier this school year, the 18-year-old began living on her own. In December she approached Jenny Martin, KBC's job training program coordinator, expressing her interest in the CNA program.
Martin carefully reviewed Neese's goals to receive her certification so she could work and finance her education toward a nursing degree. The two continued to meet weekly after Neese enrolled, making sure Neese was paying her bills, keeping up with her studies, managing her time and meeting her many obligations.
Prior to completing the program, Neese secured full-time employment at Friendship Terrace, a local assisted-living residence. She is preparing to enter nursing school in Australia in the fall. "She's exceptional," said Lin Hampson, Homer High counselor. "She's hardly gotten to do any activities because she's always so busy working, but I've never heard her complain."
Bitten with the traveling bug when she was born, she hopes to see the world as a traveling nurse. Neese credits her parents with inspiring her to achieve her goals.
"My mom and aunt are nurses and that seemed like a really good profession to get into," she said. "It's good to help somebody. That feels good at the end of the day."
She compared that to the physical demands of commercial fishing with her father in Bristol Bay.
"You work like 20 hours a day, get a couple of hours of sleep and then get up again," she said. "I don't see how he does it. It gave me a lot of respect for what he does."
Referring to her daughter's participation in KBC's graduation, Spencer said, "I think I'm more proud of that than the high school graduation, because she did it on her own, no prodding from me or any of us. She's been putting a lot of effort into everything, succeeding and with every little success she's going on to the next step."
Neese knows, as Eller urged in his address, that it is up to her. to make it on her own.
"There's nothing that can keep me back," she said.
Homer High Class of 2005
Homer Hight School Valedictorians
Adrian was raised in Homer and has tried to take part in as many activites as she found possible in the community. She looks forward to going to either Yale University or Amherst College next year to continue her study of French. She plans to study abroad, too.
Katie is the daughter of Paul Gavenus and Virginia Espenshade. Her favorite accomplishments are helping to organize last spring's school walk out to protest inadequate education funding and repeating this year in soccer as regional champions. She will attend Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.
Joseph is the son of Rita Pfenninger and Larry Hoare. He played on the football and soccer teams and plans to play soccer for Colorado College.
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