Wrangell Sentinel -


2012 High School graduation: A special night


It was an evening of joy and celebration as 26 young men and women from Wrangell High School graduated last Friday night – and took their first step toward making a transition into the world beyond their youth.

Three graduates: Salutatorian Nichole Kagee, and Valedictorians Kent Johnson and Clayton Stokes, were singled out with high recognition for their accomplishments in the classroom and the community over the past four years.

In her remarks to parents, family and friends, Kagee spoke of the inspiration her mother, Lavonne Klinke, has given her throughout her life and high school career.

“I don’t know if I can accurately describe how proud I am of my mother,” Kagee said. “I can’t begin to tell you what she has done for me.”

Before the graduation ceremony, Kagee also related a story of how the Class of 2012 grew together throughout their lives and this, their final year together in school.

“This class has been through a lot of tough times but we stuck together,” Kagee added. “One of my best memories was probably this year when we went upriver for our Senior Skip Day. It was fun because everybody was there and there was no fighting. It’s just kinda shocking that we’re graduating because I have known almost all of these guys since we were little.”

Klinke said the evening was melancholy and brought back memories of her daughter and the other graduates in years gone by.

“It’s kinda sad because they’re getting ready to go off and do their own life, but it’s nice to see how they’ve grown and now know they’re young adults getting ready to go off and start their own life,” Klinke said.

Kagee plans on attending Neumont University in South Jordan, Utah to study software development.

Former teacher John Martin, who ended his career in education with the Class of 2012 as his sixth grade class, was the commencement speaker for the graduation event and said he was happy they asked him to come back for their special day.

“I’m glad they had me here for this,” Martin said. “They were my last class before I retired. I figured I would give the story of about our time together in class.”

Martin added that his speech was a composite of input he received from a number of individuals in his life who he asked, “What would you say to them?”

“I picked a half dozen people and asked them that question,” Martin added. “I did a checklist of topics that I put together to share with the kids.”

Retiring teachers Kirk Garbisch and Dave Brown were also honored with a standing ovation during the ceremony.

A special moment in the evening came when the lights dimmed and a slideshow presentation of photos chronicling the life of each graduate was shown.

After the slideshow, graduates delivered roses to family and friends in the audience as the sounds of Blake Shelton’s “God Gave Me You” played for all in attendance.

Valedictorians Johnson and Stokes closed out the evening with a pair of somewhat humorous, yet hopeful messages for their fellow classmates.

“It was an honor to be able to speak to my friends in my class,” Stokes said of his turn at the podium. “They gave me so much help getting through my years of high school. I also wanted to thank the teachers and community, especially because of how much they gave to us.”

Johnson said he was happy to be finished with school and getting ready to move on to college – but he didn’t leave the stage without a moment of humor directed at the parents in the audience.

“I was working up quotes for my speech and I thought I would highlight how we’re all going to have problems with money soon, so I threw in a quote by Gary Bolding,” Johnson said.

The quote Johnson used came from a commencement address Bolding, a popular artist, gave at Florida’s Stetson University in 1998.

“Your families are extremely proud of you,” Johnson quoted. “You can’t imagine the sense of relief they’re experiencing. This would be a most opportune time to ask for money.”

Stokes will be going to Utah State University and is considering a career in dentistry. Johnson plans on attending University of Colorado at Colorado Springs to study mechanical engineering.

Superintendent Rich Rhodes’ ended the ceremony with the words; “With the authority vested in me by the State of Alaska, I now pronounce you graduates of Wrangell High School” and 26 young men and women began their journey into adulthood.


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