Chugiak seniors embrace new challenge, responsibility

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 - 15:18
  • Courtesy photo Chugiak High School Valedictorian Brian Jensen, one of approximately 260 graduates in the CHS Class of 2017, is looking for ways to make an impact on the world. He plans to travel to the University of Texas, Dallas to study physics and math.

Approximately 450 Chugiak-Eagle River students received their high school diplomas in back-to-back ceremonies at the Sullivan Arena in Anchorage Tuesday, May 16. Some expressed joy, others relief, as smiles and tears filled the arena through the afternoon and into the sun-filled spring evening.

The pomp and circumstance began at 2 p.m., when more than 190 students were set to graduate from Eagle River High School. At 7 p.m., some 260 Chugiak High School seniors followed suit. The graduations included addresses from class officers, honors graduates and invited speakers.

The May 16 ceremonies were two of more than 30 scheduled to take place throughout the Anchorage School District this month. Also handing out diplomas this year were two local Christian schools, as well as UAA, which this year had more than 100 Chugiak-Eagle River residents among its graduating class.

More than 260 among Chugiak High class of 2017

On the day before graduation, Chugiak High School senior Brian Jensen spent some time relaxing and slacklining – balancing across a thin strap secured like a tightrope between two anchors.

“I do have a speech, I guess, in 24 hours,” he said later that evening.

But he said he wasn’t too worried. He knew what he wanted to say in front of all those hundreds of people at the Sullivan Arena. For the most part, the Chugiak High School valedictorian decided on his message weeks ago, he said.

“I’m more nervous about the reception — I just hope that it’s something that people remember,” he said. “I’d love to impact people’s lives.”

It’s a common theme among Chugiak students in the Class of 2017. Graduates are involved with local government, volunteer efforts and community activism. Keri Lierman, a CHS teacher and faculty advisor to the Class of 2017, sees it firsthand.

“They know what they want, and they go for it,” she said of the leaders of the outgoing senior class.

In her role as faculty advisor, Lierman said she works primarily with senior class officers to ensure class activities run smoothly. For the most part, the teens are self-directed and self-motivated, she said.

“Working with the officers — it’s just amazing to see them inspired to be leaders,” Lierman said.

She has a long history at Chugiak: She graduated with the Class of 1991, and she’s spent 10 years working as an advisor at the school. Now that her own daughter is graduating with the Class of 2017, things are coming full circle. Lierman said she was ready to see her daughter walk across the Sullivan Arena stage with the approximately 260 new CHS graduates.

“I want her to go outside and gain experience,” Lierman said. “She’s ready to conquer the world and I think that’s great.”

Dream big, she told her daughter. Set a goal. Do everything you can to make it happen.

“And I’ve told all of the kids that,” Lierman said. “Dream big and go and achieve.”

It seems to be working. The CHS Class of 2017 does have big dreams. Students plan on joining the Peace Corps and the U.S. Army and going off to college to study medicine and marine biology and engineering and education, just to name a few.

Jensen plans on heading south to the University of Texas, Dallas, where he intends to study physics and math, he said. He’s considered pursuing undergraduate research, or continuing his education after that. For now, he has no concrete career aspirations – just a lot of ideas and inspirations.

In high school, he never planned on earning the title of class valedictorian, he said, but “I tried to do my best.”

“I think hard work definitely pays off,” he said.

It’s a principal he’s seen at work in physics, and it’s a principal he tried to incorporate into his valedictorian’s speech. Here’s another maxim he tries to remember: “Don’t live for prosperity, live for purpose.”

He planned to talk about that to the crowd at the Sullivan Arena at Tuesday’s graduation, he said. He hoped it would make an impact. He hoped his classmates would remember.

“Now that we’re kind of becoming adults, I think we have a responsibility to be active in the world,” he said.

Following Tuesday’s ceremony, Jensen’s fellow graduates expressed similar sentiments.

“We’ve all come a long way,” said Braden Pickel. “Lots of ups and downs, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Star contributing photographer Michael Dinneen and editor Matt Tunseth contributed to this story.

Chugiak High School Class of 2017:

Sinjin M. Acuna**

Cooper E. Andrews

Kassandra G. Anshutz

Riley Arant

Karl A. Arboleda

Bryce C. Arens

Sean T. Asman

Cody H. Bailey

Quinn S. Bailey***

Jacob T. Barber

Jared R. Bautista

Madison H. Beal

Amanda R. Bear

Andrew J.G. Beckett

Aroura Bednar

Jourdin R. Bedwell**

Kendall M. Beesing*

Kyle K. Benson

Kathryn G. Bistodeau***

Maya B. Bolak

Kennedy M. Booth

Rhoda D. Both

Kameron Z. Bowser

Jared L. Bringhurst*

Scott R. Bringhurst

Chayton L. Bromirski

Dawson P. Budke*

Cerina J. Bush**

Erin E. Bush*

Cameron J. Butler

Alyssa M. Byrd

Emma R. Campbell

Karlee R. Carlson*

Morgan J.M. Carr

Marissa Z. Carroll*

Quinn T. Carstenson

Timothy J. Chase

Jessie L. Caudill*

Kayli J. Chavez

Terrance V. Coates

Lexi L. Connor

Marina A.K. Conrad

Andrew T. Cooley

Rhys F. Cottle

Kiley M. Cousins

Sean L. Crumley

Sean Paolo D. Cruz

Greyson M. Culbert*

Ariana K. Davis

Alexis C.M. De La Cruz

Cameron C. Decter

Ryan D. Delaney

Leona A. Deleon

Carly C. Dennis***

Damien D. Derry

Austin B. Desjarlais

Bryce Desjarlais

Haley A. Dittbrender

James T. Dobson

Taelor L. Doughty

Andrew A. Dunn

Hannah N. Eastman

Brandon L. Eddy

Magnola P. Edge**

Caleb M. Edwards

Joshua M. Edwards

Christopher D. Elder**

Carter M. Eldred

Nicholas G. Emmi

Jacob K.M. Endicott

Kayley O.M. Ernst*

Alyssa M. Evanchuck**

Karletty Faamatuainu

Caitlyn R. Farley

James P. Fayette

Heather L. Findlay

Rose Finkler**

Ryan T. FitzSimmons***

Hazel M. Fleck

Brianna C. Flint

Laura Flodin**

Ashton D. Franchino*

Alejandra G. Frankl

Laura R. Frost

Jensen E. Fullmer

Julie Gallagher

Oberon Gallion

Kailey S. Gates***

Dana N. Gay

Connor J. Gentry

Makenna G. Girard***

Ethan Michael M. Gogue

Bailey S. Gonzalez

Lars Goozen

Josiah D. Goward

Kaitlyn M. Greenlund*

Mark D. Hageter

Alec S. Halford

Hunter D. Hall**

John R. Hammer

Zachary W. Hauger

Malissa R. Hendon**

Elijah T.D. Hickok

Trevor C. Hicks***

Nelson P.T. Hill

Vyctoria L. Hooper**

Haylee E. Huck**

Savannah D. Hudson*

Angelina T. Inguagiato**

Brandan T. Jackson

Corey E. Jackson

Brandy L. Jensema**

Brian D. Jensen***

Hunter S. Johnson

Mariah A. Johnson**

Merrick S. Johnson

Patrick S. Johnson

Karlie K. Jones*

Taylor M. Joslin

Sarah A. Joyner

Zoeanne M. Kahler

Cody D. Keen

Katileena Khang

Megan Kinder

Jakub R. Kindred

Mackenzie L. Klippel

Briday C. Knittle*

Emma R. Kohler

Robert E. Kosinski**

Margaret O.Q. Krafft***

Zachary T. Krajnik*

Courtney A. Kuhlmann**

Brennan R. Langman

Odalis Lara

Jean C. Larigo

Madelyn I. Lavy

Billy Y. Lee

Lor P. Lee

Camden P. Lerch

Bryan M. Lilly

Brady J. Lindberg

Jason J.N. Lombard

Matthew R. Lopez

Ashlyn P. Lowe*

Joseph L. Lyle

Sierra P. Madrid

Bien Von Pablo Malaluan Dasal

Katelynn R. Marshall

Cable R. Mason

Caleb J. McConihay*

Jared T. McCormick*

Hayden R. McCoy

Shafiq D. McCummings

Alexis C. McKinnon

Miranda J. McMullen***

Trevor J. McNamara

Kristian P. Medders

Nathaniel F. Medeiros

Michaela M. Medland

Steven B. Meyer

Cade Midyett***

Trevon L. Miller

Julie A. Mills

Briana L Moffat

Gabriel B. Momblow

Emily N. Moorhead

Jacob A. Morey

Michael P. Mrugala

Olivia C. Mueller***

Kassidy B. Murfin*

Jeremy M. Nicholson

Justin T. Oaks

Eliza A. Oldham*

Luke M. Oldham***

Alethea M. Ortiz

Zachary A. Oshesky

Cheyanne D. Palmer

Sierra F. Palmer

Jonathan D. Parsons*

Diana V. Peck**

Julise N. Perez

Reece A. Perez

Lilliana M. Perham*

Forest Perish*

Emily K. Petrie

Angelina M. Phillips

Jacob R. Phillips

Braden T. Pickel

Nicole K. Pinckney**

Austin E. Potter***

Austin D. Pressley

Dominic Pugh

Isaac C. Pugh

Alina J. Purcell**

Holly M. Purvis

Claudia E. Rabalais

Cameron J. Ramaekers

Zachary S. Rand

Michael T. Remer

Madeline R. Richardson

Kadon D. Riddle

Jesi N. Robison***

Bailey L. Rogers***

Abigayle A.S. Rovira

Brandon S. Rubiera

Brittany R. Rude

Wesley J. Rueb*

Champagne E. Ruesch

Alexander J. Rumfelt

Jericho C. Rusnak

Samuel B.S. Salyers

Austin E. Sayer***

Zachary A. Saylor**

Bradley L. Schauer

Adam D. Scheer

Gage J. Schirmer

Vincent A. Sereyko

Cory J. Sheldon

Sean R. Silk

Zachary A. Simmons

Hannah R. Smith***

Sydney A. Smith

Tom H. Smith

Bly D. Soellers

Madeline Spackman**

Lantz C. Stapleton

Jordan R. Stemper

Derek J. Stevenson

Christopher M. Stone

Parker S. Stone***

Taunton E. Stone

Paul H. Straub***

Brendan E. Styles

Erik D. Swartz

Alexa C. Swears

Alyssa R. Tapia

Daniel L. Tavenner

Ruben I. Tena Herrera

Leif L. Thurmond

A’yanna D.N. Tippins

Jacob Torres

Monika A. Ugarte

Michala E. Valdez-Taylor

Joshua A. Vallieres

Emilia L. van Weel

Maxwell W. VanDyke

Kyle D. Vik

Mai Kia Vue

Nou Z. Vue

Garrett J. Wackerman**

Nikolai M. Wallin***

Samantha D. Wanner

Jesse R. Warden

Cristina Warnke**

Emma M. Washburn*

Adam L. Wellman

Trentin-John J. Wermers

Bryant T. White**

Dallin L. White

Brooke E. Whitney

Benjamin T. Wiggins

Lena N. Wild

Tou D. Yang

Isabella B. Yarian

Kadin E. Yockey***

Kyle K. Yockey***

Ryan T. Yorke

Alexander M. Zachry*

Franklin T. Zellers

Tyler L. Ziesmer

Sasha L. Zizza*

Foreign Exchange Students:

Phillip Amstutz Switzerland

Sergio G. Areal Spain

Kim A. Bader Switzerland

Siwen Chen China

Cristina T. Hernandez Spain

Yuriy Klym Ukraine

Candela R. Trincado Spain

Lucia D.O. Valero Spain

* Cum Laude

** Magna Cum Laude

*** Summa Cum Laude

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