Homer Alaska - Schools

Story last updated at 2:07 PM on Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Seniors get ready for new adventures



By SHANNON REID
FOR THE HOMER NEWS

With preparations in full swing, the community of Homer is arranging to graduate more than 140 high school seniors this month. Many of the graduates are working with counselors to finalize future plans as they complete the last of their high school work.

Homer Flex High School, Homer High School, Kachemak Selo, Razdolna School, Voznesenka School and the hosting homeschool programs of Interior Distance Education of Alaska and Connections Homeschool Program will all have different celebrations recognizing the graduating students.

Homer High School will celebrate its graduation May 21 in the Mariner Theatre with 96 seniors preparing to walk. Among them, valedictorian Marie Schmidt says her speech is currently a "work in progress." Schmidt plans to attend Vassar College in New York in the fall. She is unsure of what her major will be, but wants to study "something science related."

For Schmidt, choosing a college wasn't easy.

"Really, I applied to so many schools and it was hard to decide. It kind of came down to rock, paper, scissors," she said.

The fact that Vassar operates a Division III swim team influenced the state competitor who broke her school's record for the girls' 500 freestyle last fall. Schmidt also is excited about the fact that Vassar is two hours away from New York City. While she is eager to experience city life, Schmidt says she will miss Homer.

"I have liked growing up in Homer. I think it's a really great community," she said.

Schmidt is one of the Homer High School students who received the UA Scholar Award, an $11,000 scholarship given to the top 10 seniors in each Alaska high school that can be used at any of the 15 University of Alaska campuses. Other Homer High School students who received the award include Kyle Wentz, Lauren Cashman, Madeline Bowen, Alaine Miller, Emily Schmidt, Kathryn Schmidt, Kathleen McNary, Robin Glosser and Colin Latimer.

Miller, a captain of the Homer High School girls varsity soccer team, said she might use her award at the University of Alaska Southeast after a year at Boden- seehof Bible School in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

"I need some time to broaden my horizon and see new things," she said, "I want to test my comfort zone and experience a different culture than the one I grew up in."

Miller said she is 100 percent ready to go new places and see new things but won't forget the intimacy she experienced with her fellow seniors.

"We had a really unique class and I feel like we were really close. I'll miss that feeling of knowing everyone and the family atmosphere," she said.

Homer High School Counselor Lin Hampson said the time just before graduation is always hectic.

"Everything is coming together at once," she said, "It's a happy time for everybody. A lot of kids have plans that we are hoping materialize."

Homer High School had its local scholarship awards night Monday. Hampson said while some students were aware of the scholarships awarded to them beforehand, many were surprised.

Voznesenka School Principal Mike Wojciak said that graduation preparations there were fast and furious. Ten seniors will walk at the graduation ceremony, which will be at McNeil Canyon School today.

"We really appreciate McNeil Canyon School for the opportunity to let us use their facility for the purpose of graduation," said Wojciak.

The Connections Program in Homer will send between 20 and 25 seniors to the graduation ceremony for the Kenai Peninsula at Soldotna High School on May 24. Nancy Klein, the secondary academic advisor, said when she first started in the 2004-2005 school year, four seniors graduated from Homer.

"So, it's grown quite a lot," she said. "This is my largest senior class I've had in Homer."

Klein believes that the Connections Program has benefited many students and families through its flexible and tailored curriculum.

"It is an incredible program for people that are looking for a mosaic of options," she said.

John Akers, who has lived in Homer for 12 years, will be the valedictorian for the Connections graduation ceremony. He decided to stay closer to home next year and use his UA Scholar Award at the University of Anchorage. Aker plans to pursue a degree in the pharmaceutical field and is looking to intern at the local Safeway pharmacy this summer. He said his other option was taking summer classes in Idaho.

While excited for graduation, Akers isn't exactly looking forward to addressing a full auditorium of people.

"I don't really like giving speeches, it makes me kind of nervous," he said, "but I think I prepared well."

Laura Norton, the secretary at Homer Flex High School, said eight seniors likely will graduate in the ceremony that will be on May 21 at Land's End Resort. She encourages the public to attend.

"The ceremony is very intimate and is a community celebration so people are certainly welcome to come," she said.

A drug- and alcohol-free graduation party sponsored by parents of the Homer High School senior class will be from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Monday at the Homer Elks Lodge. All 2012 graduates from Homer are invited to participate in the prize giving, food, dancing and karaoke.

Coordinators are hoping to provide a prize for every attending senior, and are heavily relying on cash and prize donations from parents and business owners. Prizes from previous years included laptop computers, bicycles and gift certificates to local businesses. A $25 dollar admission fee must be paid at the Homer High School office before May 19 from graduates who wish attend. For information on donating prizes, call Laureen Wentz at 235- 5558.

Shannon Reid is a high school senior who will graduate from the Connections Homeschool Program this month. She also is a recipient of the UA Scholar Award.

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