Story last updated at 3:46 p.m. Thursday, May 23, 2002

Congrats Class of 2002
by Carey James
Staff Writer

photo: news
  Photo by Carey James, Homer News
Senior Joe Todd, above, raises his hands in victory after receiving his high scool diploma Monday.  
Ninety-one beaming graduates crossed the Homer High stage Monday evening and entered a new stage in life, taking more than $30,000 in scholarships with them.

Loraine Murphy, who presented the commencement address to the class of 2002, told them in the 40 years since she was a graduate, she has learned a great deal.

"I haven't really changed so much as gotten more comfortable with who I am," the English teacher said. "And I learned none of it from my graduation speaker."

Murphy told the graduates that is up to them to direct their lives now.

"Discover more fully your own best self," she said. "No parent, no friend, no teacher can do that. Only you can create your own life. You must bear the responsibility all the way."

As they do, she said, it is likely these students will learn they have "immeasurable resources of heart and mind."

Murphy reminded the graduates they did not make it to their seats among their peers alone. She told graduates to think of their families, teachers and the community they live in while reflecting on their accomplishment of graduating from high school.

photo: news
  Photo by Carey James, Homer News
Senior members of the choir sing together one last time.  
For the parents, she said, "the best is yet to come"

"This is not only a time for pride and joy, but immense, well-earned relief," she said. "In the next two years, you will gain back all of the brain cells your son or daughter thinks you lost."

Four valedictorians added their words of wisdom to Murphy's including Tim Byrne, Jami Epley, Travis Kiefer and Sadie Polen.

Epley told her classmates that when asked what they would do differently, most 90-year-olds said they would take more chances in life.

"Take it from an elderly crew," she said. "Do not allow yourselves to be held back by uncertainties."

Kiefer, however had a more simple message. The charismatic graduate said he had struggled trying to find something meaningful to say to his class, and had gone to a bookstore for inspiration. There, he said, he found a book on the best advice to give graduates.

"It was completely blank," he said. "Pages and pages of white, unlined paper. I think the last thing this class needs is more advice."

photo: news
  Photo by Carey James, Homer News
Smiles say it all as Linsday Horst and Jessica Eller pose for a snapshot Monday after graduating from high school.  
Advice or no advice, 26 members of the class scooped up a long list of scholarships totaling $33,250. Among the top scholarship receivers was Jami Epley, who received $6,000 from five scholarships including the Homer Community Science Scholarship Fund, the Homer Electric Association, The Homer Elks Lodge, the Homer Kachemak Bay Rotary Club and the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies.

Tim Byrne and Andrew Peters each received $3,750, with Byrne's scholarships coming from the Homer Electric Association, the Homer Elks Lodge, the Karen Hornaday Memorial and the Tommie Window Memorial and Peters' from the Homer Elks Lodge, the Homer Emblem Club, and the Ken Fisher Memorial - Homer Ministerial scholarship.

One surprise scholarship fund, the Jamie Ballentine Scholarship was presented by the retiring counselor's daughter, Kristen Ballentine in the amount of $550 to Chaunna Dietz. Also retiring counselor Shawnie Olson said keeping the scholarship a secret from her co-worker was a challenge, but well worth it, if only for the look on his face when he opened the graduation program and saw his name listed among the scholarships on the back.

In addition to the speakers, the senior members of the Homer High School Choir lifted their voices one last time to sing "They Can't Take That Away From Me," by Gershwin while the Homer High School Band provided the "Pomp and Circumstance."

The evening was summed up as, one by one, the Homer High class of 2002 crossed the stage, received their diplomas, flashed peace signs, and flexed their muscles. One over-enthusiastic student even left the stage via a backflip.

"You did it all," said Murphy. "Congratulations.