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By ALAINA BARTEL
Daily News Staff Writer
The Ketchikan High School Class of 2018 was a talented one. That was made evident by their graduation ceremony on Sunday afternoon in the school’s Clarke Cochrane Gymnasium.
This year’s class included many academics, musicians and athletes. Whether it was the Lady Kings softball team and the Kayhi baseball team seniors rushing back to Ketchikan after competing and placing at state tournaments this past weekend; the all-senior Kayhi Academic Decathlon team garnering a national win earlier this year and receiving a standing ovation on Sunday; the seniors who accepted more than $3 million in scholarships this past week; or the all-senior jazz choir that performed one last song together at the ceremony to another standing ovation, this year’s graduating class seems to have had a large impact on the school and community.
Kayhi graduated more than 130 students on Sunday while their friends, family members and teachers flooded through the gymnasium doors to support them. By the start of the ceremony, there was standing-room only as the graduates made their way to their seats, clad in maroon caps and gowns.
“Everybody needs to take a really good look at these individuals,” said Kayhi principal Bob Marshall. “If any of you in attendance today are in positions of leadership, it’s time to start familiarizing yourselves with these graduates because they will be replacing you someday soon.”
Marshall introduced Chasina Klein, Class of 2018 vice president. He said some of her classmates recognized her wisdom early on in their high school careers, and were “gracious enough to share those pearls with the rest of the world” with a Twitter account of her quotes.
Klein addressed the audience and talked about how they spent their senior year. It started with decorating their Fourth of July float last year, fittingly themed “18 karat gold.” Then it was running their senior carnival. Up next was their prom, after prom and senior prom at the Pioneer Home.
A few weeks ago, they had their senior skip day at Ward Lake and participated in a paper toss on June 1, tossing hundreds of paper in the air “for the freshmen to clean up.”
Their senior year ended on Sunday, the day they said goodbye to Kayhi in the gymnasium where they’ve spent years attending assemblies, sporting events and school activities. A gymnasium they were likely introduced to during their freshman orientation four years ago.
“Hold onto the memories we’ve made this year, because these will all stay with us forever,” Klein said. “Do not forget this community, as they have supported us through so many years.”
Keri Thomas, the class salutatorian, was introduced by Marshall next. Afterward, Mario Rabacal sang “Wish My Life Away,” by Laura Shigihara. Following Rabacal’s solo, class valedictorian Largim Zhuta took to the microphone.
Zhuta said the graduating class owes it to themselves to celebrate. They showed up — most days. They worked their hardest — four out of five days of the week. And they had a “great time while doing it all.” He said there’s no question about that.
The valedictorian then thanked his teachers and family members, and told his classmates to hug their parents and thank them after the ceremony.
“Appreciate your parents,” Zhuta said. “For soon, we will launch out into the real world, and we won’t have them by our sides. But dad, don’t you worry. You’ll always be with me. Specifically, in my wallet, every time I use your credit card.”
After Zhuta’s speech, the Wind Ensemble directed by Deidra Nuss performed “Pirates of the Caribbean.” The ensemble, which included a few seniors, also performed earlier, playing “Fanfare and Processional,” while the graduating class made its way into the gymnasium.
Marshall introduced the commencement speaker, Myra “Madame Zed” Zelensky next. She was a French teacher at Kayhi for 27 years before retiring. Marshall said Zelensky has inspired students to gain a love of language, as well as a passion to be willing to stand up for what they believe in.
Zelensky encouraged the graduates to keep in touch with one another and to be proud of where they come from. She also told them to travel around the world and experience new cultures.
The retired teacher said it has been 45 years since she stood on a stage in the old Kayhi auditorium during her valedictorian speech for the graduating Class of 1973. That comment did not go without a roaring applause.
A math and science student while she was in school, Zelensky wanted to be an architect. After graduating from Kayhi, she went to Switzerland for a year abroad. Little did she know, that trip would change the path of her life. When she returned home, Zelensky wanted to be a teacher.
“Be flexible,” she told the students. “Stay open to the possibility of change to your plans and the direction of your life.”
It was the moment they were waiting for. It was time to get their hands on their hard-earned diplomas. But that didn’t come without recognition of Kayhi vice principal Mike Rath, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
“Don’t forget to shake his hand when you come down the receiving line,” Marshall said. “If you miss him, it might make him cry. In all seriousness though, thank you Mike.”
The room erupted in applause and people began standing up one after the other for yet another standing ovation, their eyes on Rath. A few moments later, Rath took his spot in the receiving line while the first group of graduating seniors lined up on the other side of the auditorium.
As their names were called one-by-one, the members of the Class of 2018 made their way down a red carpet to receive their diploma. Many of the graduates were hugged by their teachers and family members. There was confetti after one name was announced, and a few air horn blows after another.
Kayhi teachers were wiping away tears while awarding diplomas to their students, many of whom strolled down the red carpet with huge grins stretched across their faces as their family members made sure to snap a few pictures.
The Class of 2018 then turned their tassels, tossed their caps in the air and ended their high school careers. The world is now their oyster.
Revilla Blended School will be holding its graduation ceremony at 6 p.m. on Thursday at the Ted Ferry Civic Center. The last day of school for the 2017-18 school year will be on Friday.
The following graduates received a President’s Education Award of the U.S. Department of Education:
• Paul Allmendinger • Alexandra Boegler • Grant Collins • Piper Cooper • John Coss • Joseph Karlik • Jeffrey Lambert • Farren Linne • Charisma Manalo • Hannah Maxwell • Tug Olson • Henning Pankow • Adrian Ronquillo • Vince Tenebro • Keri Thomas • Stephanie Thompson • Mey Tuinei • Max Varela • Largim Zhuta
The following graduates earned a 4.0 GPA: Paul Allmendinger, John Coss, Verona Kamberi, Joseph Karlik, Jeffrey Lambert and Largim Zhuta.
Members of the Class of 2018 who graduated with honors, with a 3.5 GPA or higher were:
• Victoria Adams • Kali Alvarez • Emme Andersen • Kyle Beal • Leah Benning • Alexandra Boegler • Grant Collins • Piper Cooper • Cayla Danao • Crystal Danao • Nathan Eisenhower • Melinda Guerrero • Kadin Hodges • Meagan Jorgensen • Chasina Klein • Jacinda Leighton • Charisma Manalo • Hannah Maxwell • Tianna Monta • Samadhi Moore • Sydney Nichols • Henning Pankow • Mario Rabacal • Joseph Rhoads • Adrian Ronquillo • Christopher Salita • Brittany Slick • Caleb Smith • Elsa Snodderly • Michael Starr • Vince Tenebro • McKenzie Thomas • Stephanie Thompson • Madyson Traudt • Mey Tuinei • Tyler Turner • Max Varela