Sitka High School graduated its 86th class on Monday (5-23-16). Among the crowd are state champions in athletics, music, and DDF. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Sitka High School graduated its 86th class on Monday (5-23-16). Among the crowd are state champions in athletics, music, and DDF. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

In a packed gym of beaming family and friends on Monday night (5-23-16), 70 students became alumni of Sitka High School. Speeches were given. Selfies were taken. And while students and staff reflected on the journey ahead, many paid homage to their Sitka roots. KCAW’s Emily Kwong was there to document the moment.

Downloadable audio.

[“Pomp and Circumstance,” performed by the Sitka High Symphonic Band, directed by Sarah Martinson]

SLIDESHOW: Sitka High School Graduation, Class of 2016 

Deborah Yearwood, Most Representative Girl: When I look behind me, I see a class of beautiful faces. We have first chair musicians, mock trial winners, across-the-board sport champions, book enthusiasts and what I really wish I had done my four years here, people who just like to relax.


The Class of 2016 is filled with musicians. A significant portion of seniors stepped down from the bleachers to perform Eric Whitacre’s “Sea Lullaby” with the Chamber Choir. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Brady Harang, Most Representative Boy: We’ll all be heading down different paths and I obviously hear people saying, ‘Wow, I’m never going to see you guys again.’ But really, I don’t think that’s true. We all have one thing in common and that’s where we come from. And I have this crazy feeling that a lot of us will be back, once we realize that fresh fish, small town community, and beautiful scenery is something you don’t get many places.


Most Representative Boy Brady Harang, on right, said he’s known most of his classmates since Kindergarten. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

[“Sea Lullaby,” performed by the Sitka High Symphonic Band and Chamber Choir, directed by Sarah Martinson]

Danika Weaver, Salutatorian: I’d like to notably thank, but my grandparents who allowed us to live with them during a really tough time in my life. I wouldn’t be here without them.


Salutatorian Danika Weaver achieved a 3.958 GPA and plans to study linguistics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She thanked her grandparents, saying, “I wouldn’t be here without them.” (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

Michael “Mischa” Bekeris, Valedictorian and Senior Representative Speaker: “Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.” Ever since my grandpa passed away, I have kept this quote on my wall next to my bed to serve as a reminder of my own purpose in life. You’re all meant for great things, but I challenge you to think of your own personal future and what awaits you after this graduation.


James Morland and Michael “Mischa” Bekeris perform on xylophone. Bekeris is the Valedictorian and Senior Class Representative, with a 3.984 GPA and plans to study chemical engineering at the University of Utah. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

[Mozart’s “Rondo All Turca,” xylophone performance by Michael Bekeris and James Moreland]

Stefanie Ask, SHS Teacher and Guest Speaker: I want all of your graduates to close your eyes for a few seconds for me. I want you to remember the most embarrassing moment in your life. Imagine that person in great detail. Really think about who you were, what you looked like, what you wore.


Sitka High senior close their eyes, at the request of teacher Stefanie Ask. “I want you to remember the most embarrassing moment in your life,” she said, in a speech about taking pride in the person you are and where you came from. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

You can open your eyes, but I want you to hold on to that image. When you come up on the stage in a few minutes, remember this: You are not just the cool, confidence, collected 18-year-old that you seem today. You are the student who worked hard in our classroom and drove us all crazy. You are the baby your parents were so excited to take home. You are the middle schooler who did something humiliating. When you come up here to accept your diploma today, take a moment to accept that accomplishment on behalf of the former self that you’d like to forget. Because that person is a part of you and they’ve come an awfully long way too. So from one awkward kid to another, allow me to be the first to congratulate you, the Class of 2016.


English and drama teacher Stefanie Ask, who also coached DDF (Drama, Debate and Forensics) for eight years, was the guest speaker. Ask will be teaching on Whidbey Island in Washington state this fall. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

And with that, school district leadership handed the white-and-blue clad graduates diplomas, while Principal Lyle Sparrowgrove moved their tassels from left to right. And yes, they are marching out to the tune of Star Wars’ “The Force Awakens.”


As Patricia “Addie” Fowler’s reminds us, high school is over! The graduates tossed their caps in the air and processed off stage to the tune of Star Wars’ “The Force Awakens”. (EmilY Kwong/KCAW photo)