When a high school graduating class has a total of three students, an impressive ranking is guaranteed. That was a point Ninilchik teacher Bryan Hickey made for Ninilchik graduates Robert Delgado, Jessica Rogers and Matthew Thorne during Hickey’s May 21 high school commencement address.
“Coming from a small school, college years can be daunting, but I expect you will stay in the top third of your class wherever you go,” said Hickey, drawing a laugh from the graduates and the gathering of family, friends and community members in the school gym.
Delgado has plans to attend AVTEC, Alaska’s Institute of Technology, in Seward in the fall; Rogers and Thorne each plan on attending Kenai Peninsula College. The years ahead will be less daunting thanks to scholarship awards made at the commencement ceremony:
University Alaska Scholars Award, $11,000: Rogers;
Ninilchik Domestic Engineers, $1,800: Thorne;
Ninilchik Domestic Engineers, $1,200: Delgado;
Mary Hawkins Scholarship, $500: Rogers;
American Legion Post 18 Auxiliary Scholarship, $1,000: Rogers;
American Legion Post 18 and Sons of the American Legion, $1,000 each: Delgado and Thorne;
Golden Rule Scholarship in memory of Matthew Encelewski, $500 each: Delgado and Thorne;
Ninilchik Memorial Scholarship Foundation, $500: Rogers;
Doug Blossom Memorial Scholarship, $800: Delgado;
An anonymous scholarship, $1,500: Delgado;
Masonic Lodge No. 11 Scholarship, $1,000: Rogers;
Alaska Performance Scholarship, $3,566 per year: Delgado;
Alaska Performance Scholarship, $2,378 per year: Thorne;
Hilcorp Future Leaders Scholarship, $10,000: Rogers;
Kenai Peninsula College, one-year tuition waiver: Rogers;
Kenai Peninsula Borough School District (CTE department), one-year tuition waiver: Rogers;
Erling Kvasnikoff Memorial Scholarship, $3,200 per semester for a total of $25,000: Thorne.
After awarding the scholarships and before awarding diplomas, Principal Jeff Ambrosier said with a smile, “It is a good day to be a (Ninilchik) Wolverine.”
A slide presentation included plenty of images of each of the graduates. It documented the students’ high school years, but also included photos of younger versions of the three that sparked oohs and ahs, as well as embarrassing giggles.
With Imagine Dragons’ version of “On Top of the World” playing over the sound system, Delgado, Rogers and Thorne used the ceremony as an opportunity to present roses to each of the individuals in the crowd who had helped them reach this milestone in their lives.
The graduates also had opportunities to direct comments to each other, beginning with Thorne, who moved to Ninilchik five years ago.
“We’ve made lifelong friends and had a lot of fun on this rollercoaster they call high school,” said Thorne. “But don’t dwell on the past. We all have a future to look forward to. It doesn’t matter if your dreams come true if you spend your whole life dreaming.”
Delgado, the class salutatorian, noted the long hours of study and encouragement from others it took for each of them “to be the best we can be.”
“They say it takes a village to raise a child. I don’t think we’ll find a case where that’s truer than here,” he said.
In her valedictorian address, Rogers focused on the future for herself and her classmates.
“You can’t climb the ladder of success with your hands in your pockets,” she said. “See you at the top.”
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.