Story last updated at 2:53 p.m. Thursday, May 16, 2002

Variety, interests make graduates stand out
By Carey James and Sepp Jannotta
Staff Writers

photo: news
Bryan Chartier  
Around the lower Kenai Peninsula this week, more than 140 students are eager to finish their high school careers with a handshake and a toss of their tasseled caps.

There are countless student success stories this year, as always. From that glowing group, however, several stand out for a variety of reasons. Some have overcome challenges greater than we can likely comprehend. Others have chiseled out their own paths. All have found out more about themselves in the process. And all are looking forward to the coming years with enthusiasm.

May we present the class of 2002.

Bryan Chartier

An hour after completing his last test, Bryan Chartier was probably eager to get back to his favorite thing: being outdoors.

Chartier, 18, attended Susan B. English School in Seldovia. He's not sure what's next, but the one thing he's certain of is that he doesn't want anything to do with a desk job.

Chartier said he's thought about wildland firefighting, guiding and other outdoor pursuits.

"I really don't know right now. I just know I can't be in an office," he said.

Chartier may have acquired his love of being outdoors during summers working on his parents' fishing boats. He said though it is the "perfect summer job," he's not sure what the future holds for fishing.

Next fall, Chartier will attend the University of Montana in Missoula. Why Montana?

"For the snowboarding, actually," Chartier said. A half hour from the university is a small resort with snowboarding facilities.

Chartier said he started out skiing, tried snowmachine-riding for a while, and last year took up snowboarding. With the mountains right out his back door, he and his friends became enthusiasts, he said.

"There's some awesome stuff over here," he said, adding that he's not interested in competing in the sport. "I'm just in it for the fun."

Chartier, who also participated in wrestling and played basketball during high school, said his senior year allowed him to focus a lot on fun. With a light academic load, the senior took advantage of the free time to enjoy life.

"Sometimes it's boring (in Seldovia), but I have a good bunch of guys to chill with. We have a good time no matter what."

Though he's eager to try something new, Chartier said he's sure he'll come back to Alaska, probably even the Kenai Peninsula.

"I'm just glad I'm out of school," he said. "I'm going to miss a lot of my friends, but I'm sure we'll see each other again."

Sandor Stockfleth

photo: news
Sandor Stockfleth  
Since December, Sandor Stockfleth, 18, has been traveling around the Lower 48, enjoying his freedom after graduating early through the Interior Distance Education of Alaska homeschool program. While having his first apartment and being on his own has been exciting, Stockfleth said he's learned something already.

"I get bored when I'm not learning," he said. "I don't feel as good when my mind isn't engaged."

Considering his high school career, that's not surprising. Though he took most of his classes through Homer High School, Stockfleth enrolled in English and other college courses starting in his junior year. He graduated with A's and B's in four college classes.

"I found (college) better than any high school English class because the classes are taught to teach you, not entertain you," he said. "You were there to learn, and no one was there who didn't want to be there."

Initially, Stockfleth said he enrolled to improve his English skills, a subject he has struggled with due to a form of dyslexia called dysgraphia that makes it difficult to write.

"Practice makes perfect," he said. "In college, I learned to write lots of papers, which improved my writing."

Though overcoming dysgraphia has been challenging, Stockfleth said it's helped him develop strength.

"It's humbling because I can't write well, but I don't let it get in my way of doing anything," he said. "I try my best and when I take on a challenge, I put my entire effort into it."

Though still unsure about an exact path, Stockfleth is hooked on science and his experiences as a theater technician, both at the Mariner Theatre and at the Marin Shakespeare Company in San Rafael, Calif.

He's receive nearly a full scholarship to Hampshire College in Massachusetts, where students are encouraged to invent things like a car that runs on leftover fast-food grease.

"I enjoy learning, and the ultimate thing is that I can continue learning with science," he said. "There is infinite space to grow."

photo: news
  Photo by Carey James, Homer News
Holly Stanish  
Holly Stanish

A little over a month ago, 18-year-old Holly Stanish got an early graduation present. Her son, Trevor, was born April 3 after 20 hours of labor.

Stanish finished her schoolwork shortly before becoming a mother by working with the Homer Flex High School. Not only will she graduate, she received the University of Alaska Scholar Award, a full scholarship.

Stanish said she didn't focus much on school until she realized she was pregnant.

"I became more responsible," said Stanish, who is caring for her new son independently. "When I first found out, I knew I couldn't quit school. I had gotten so far. I didn't want to just give up, so I came here," to Homer Flex.

At the school, Stanish said she received support. There were several other mothers-to-be at the school, and discussion groups were formed to talk about their pregnancy and becoming mothers.

While coping with morning sickness and the stress of knowing that soon she would have a child to care for, Stanish managed to focus on her education and even find an area she is interested in: writing.

Stanish said she loves to read and write poetry, and hopes to study that in college soon. She's planning to attend University of Alaska Anchorage, but she's not sure if it will be this fall.

"Whenever I make plans, different things happen," she said. "Right now, I'm just taking things one day at a time."

Stanish said she might never have thought of going to college if Trevor hadn't come along.

"He's definitely part of it," she said. "Before, I was just going to graduate, but since I had him, it's made me want to do more things."

She said while she realizes going to college and caring for an infant at the same time will be a challenge, she's pretty sure she's up to it.

photo: news
Anastasia Gordeev  
"I'm sure it's going to be hard, but it's worth it," she said.

Anastasia Gordeev

When Anastasia Gordeev graduated from eighth grade, her mother asked her to make a sacrifice for the family.

Polly Gordeev had just finished her maternity leave after giving birth to Anastasia's twin siblings and she needed to return to work. Her job at South Peninsula Hospital provided critical income and health insurance for the family.

So 14-year-old Anastasia, with a nod from then Nikolaevsk School principal Carlton Kuhns, took on the responsibility of caring for the 3-month-old twins.

She left behind school, where she had been a good student and most valuable player on her basketball team. There was talk of home schooling, but it was nearly impossible under the circumstances.

"That was one heck of a year for her," Gordeev's mother said, laughing with the knowledge of a woman who has raised eight children.

Today, Gordeev graduates from Nikolaevsk School, after finishing her high school degree in three years, after returning to play basketball once again for the Nikolaevsk Warriors, after returning to become student council president.

"Graduation is definitely a big deal to me, because of everything. Being at home for ninth grade. Finishing my classes in three years. It's a big deal," Gordeev said.

When she goes to Denver Automotive and Diesel College in the fall, Gordeev will become the first member of her family to attend school beyond 12th grade.

In the Russian Old Believer villages on the lower Kenai Peninsula, going on to college has been increasingly prevalent, where it once was the rare exception. Still, many teenagers in the villages begin working or get married before they leave high school.

But Gordeev was determined to, as she put it, "continue to grow and learn. To succeed.

"My mother said to me, 'I took your ninth grade away, now you do what you want to do and go where you want to go,'" Gordeev said.

photo: news
  Photo by Carey James, Homer News
Theresa Boyle  
After completing the intensive 18-month trade school degree, Gordeev plans to return to the Kenai Peninsula to put her skills to work and attend the University of Alaska Anchorage at the Kachemak Bay Campus. If she can earn some scholarship help, Anastasia hopes to earn an associate degree in teaching.

It should be a piece of cake after juggling infant twins for a year as a child herself.

Theresa Boyle

Halfway through high school, Theresa Boyle had her career path chosen, and when she graduates from Homer High School on Monday, she will be receiving her third diploma in the past year.

Her first two <> a firefighter certification earned last spring and an emergency medical technician certification she picked in the past few weeks <> mean that Boyle has already worn a groove in that path.

With her fire and medic certificates in hand, Boyle, who has been volunteering for the Homer Volunteer Fire Department for a couple of years, is prepared to respond to any emergency Homer can dish out.

There have been blood, trauma, even death in emergency calls Boyle has already responded to. These aspects of her chosen field don't faze her, she said, rather they have steeled her resolve to continue.

At Mariner football games, Boyle stood on duty with the ambulance that waits on standby.

After her high school graduation, Boyle plans to stay in Homer where she will continue volunteering for the fire department while attending classes at the University of Alaska Anchorage's Kachemak Bay Campus. Boyle has already taken 21 credits of college coursework toward a degree in fire administration.

Boyle came by her desire to help people naturally, getting her inspiration from both of her parents, who have been involved with the fire department for years. Though when she looks back on it, Boyle said her attraction to the fire department began as "a little kid thing."

As a child, the sight of firefighters and their equipment at Fourth of July parades awed her.

"I knew I wanted to do that because you know they're out there to help people," Boyle said.

Now that she's actually riding on emergency calls, Boyle is even more sure of her focus, something she admitted makes her a less-than-typical teenager.

"It's a lot of fun," Boyle said, showing a hint of the teenager within. "I love what I do. It's one of the most rewarding things I can imagine."