Wrangell Sentinel -

By Dan Rudy 

Wrangell bids goodbye to the Class of 2016


Vincent Balansag / Submitted Photo

Bryce Gerald carries classmate Amy Jenson over the threshold of their first summer post-graduation.

As Wrangell High School prepared to send off 19 of its senior class last week, a number of awards and scholarships were distributed to students at a May 18 ceremony in the gym.

"This is a phenomenal group of young men and women who are going off in all directions," school activities director Lisa Nikodym said.

The 2016 class together earned over $130,000 in scholarships alone, and including grants, scholarships and unaccepted awards were offered $733,882 in all.

Graduating senior Maleah Wenzel earned a full four-year ride to prestigious Dartmouth College, which would cost $287,800. There she intends to study medicine, with an emphasis on pediatrics. She was also selected to benefit from the Gates Millennium Scholars Program, but due to her acceptance of the Dartmouth scholarship the program earmarked $60,000 for her graduate-level studies afterward. For her academic successes, Wenzel was further named the Chamber of Commerce's Young Leader of the Year during its fundraising dinner and ceremony last month.

A number of other prizes, awards and recognitions were distributed to the school's outgoing seniors. Before last week's award presentation, in most instances they were unaware they had received the award, so the students' looks of surprise are genuine.

"It's one of the greatest-kept secrets all year long," Nikodym said.

Bryce Gerald, Amy Jenson and Chester Armstrong each received the Alaska Scholars Award offered by the University of Alaska. The students each would receive a $19,000 scholarship with housing stipend if they attend University of Alaska. Jenson will be headed to UAS to study elementary education, while Gerald intends to go to UA in Fairbanks for general science studies.

Three students were named recipients to this year's Alaska Pulp Scholarship, which since 1986 has benefitted Wrangell students. Nikodym pointed out she herself had benefitted from the award, as had a number of teachers and parents in attendance.

The Alaska Community Foundation was subsequently created to manage distribution of the award, also doubling it to $20,000. Students chosen to benefit this year were Blake Stokes, Jenson and Gerald.

The Alaska Peace Officers Association Scholarship presented $750 each to Tabatha Hommel and Teresa Flores. Hommel and Flores also each received the Firefighter Shandelle Nelson Memorial Scholarship, presented by DJ McConachie, a cousin to the award's namesake.

"The world is a great big place and has many opportunities," he told the assembled students. "Don't miss out on them."

Carrie Wallace and Randy Oliver presented scholarships from the Elks Lodge worth $1,000 apiece. Receiving the academic awards were Kyla Teat, Maleah Wenzel, Hommel and Flores. Wallace also informed eight applicants for the Elks' National Foundation Scholarship they would be receiving $250 each for trying: Curtis Wimberley, Cassandra Schilling-Shilts, Wenzel, Stokes, Teat, Hommel, Jenson and Gerald.

Teat was also awarded a $500 scholarship from the Wrangell Emblem Club. Gerald was presented a $2,500 scholarship from the Anna Loftus Ream Memorial Scholarship, a legacy prize which benefits students in Wrangell and Ketchikan. This year's Alaska State Employee Association Scholarship was presented to Wenzel.

A supporter of young academics for half a century, Wrangell's Lions Club presented its final scholarship to Wimberley, who was himself the community's last enrolled Boy Scout before making Eagle. Other applicants were awarded $500 apiece for participating, going to Flores, Jenson, Gerald, Hommel and Wenzel.

A further $1,000 scholarship from the Juneau Lions Club was presented to Teat for her involvement in the high school basketball program.

Stikine Sportsmen president Reme Privett presented a $1,000 renewable scholarship to Tyler Gillen, who will study combination welding at Seward's AVTEC. For the first time in Wrangell, the Alaska Association of Harbormasters presented a $500 scholarship to student Roger Miller, who will be pursuing higher education in a marine-related field.

In its second year, the Wrangell Medical Center Foundation Scholarship was presented to Gerald; funds for the award are derived in part from the annual Rally for Cancer Care golf tournament.

The Colin Buness Memorial Scholarship was presented to Gerald. The two-year $500 scholarship commemorates a former graduate of WHS and avid outdoorsman. The $5,000 Patricia Roppel Memorial Scholarship was presented to Davis Dow on behalf of Frank Warfel Jr. and the Friends of the Library.

"She was the guiding force in this community," Nikodym said of Roppel's legacy. Passing away last year, the longtime Wrangell resident was a noted writer, historian and educator.

Vincent Balansag / Submitted Photo

Valedictorian Bryce Gerald addresses his peers at their graduation ceremony on Friday. He plans to head to UAF to pursue general science studies.

Time was allotted to the school's faculty to present a wide assortment of awards, recognizing not only the senior class but all high school students. It was a time to remember some of the good and valuable experiences they had shared – and make light of a few mistakes made along the way – and in some cases was a final opportunity to say goodbye.

"It seems like every year we grow closer and closer to these kids, and every year it seems we lose some of them," said Nikodym. She said that success are not marked by scholarships or certificates, but by students' accomplishments in their classes and the lessons they took with them when embarking on life after school.

Nikodym also thanked the parents, whose support was critical to the school's activities inside and out of the classroom.

"Remember to call home once in a while, because you will be sorely missed," she said.

A graduation ceremony followed on Friday, where students Gerald and Jenson served as their class valedictorians. Headed to University of Alaska Anchorage in the fall, Stokes was named to serve as the class salutatorian.


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