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At Nome Commencement, Cheers for the ’19 Grads — and Their Hometown

Nome-Beltz Class of 2019 toss their caps at graduation on May 22. Katie Kazmierski, KNOM.

Forty-three Nome-Beltz High School seniors graduated last Wednesday. Nearly half of them graduated with a 3.0 GPA or higher.

KNOM’s Katie Kazmierski reports:

The 2019 Nome-Beltz High School Commencement ceremony started with a performance of “Welcome Song” by Nome-Beltz Cultural Dance Group.

Then, as the Nome-Beltz Band played “Pomp and Circumstance,” 43 graduating seniors made their way toward the front of the gymnasium.

After introductions and welcomes from Principal John Berkeley and Superintendent Jamie Burgess, Salutatorian Gareth Hansen addressed his classmates. He looked ahead to what’s next.

“Some of us will be heading to UAA, UAF, UAS, and various other colleges throughout the country. I also recall hearing that one of us is heading to Stanford… but who knows. It’s probably just a rumor [crowd laughs]. While we’re gone, let’s make the most of opportunities given to us by our families, friends, teachers, and community. We are so blessed to live in a town with people that love and support us with so much integrity and purpose.”

The “rumor” Hansen refers to is true. Kastyn Lie, Valedictorian of NBHS, will be heading to Stanford University in California this fall. She spoke next.

“There’s been a growing mindset that Nome-Beltz is unable to offer the education that children need to be successful in life after high school. And I’m here to tell you that could not be further from the truth… We are the primary example to show that anything is possible, no matter where you come from. As we become alumni of Nome-Beltz, we should all take pride in where we received our education. Not only is our school taking huge strides that will better prepare students for post-secondary education, we have the most loving and supportive group of people to help pave the way. This upcoming fall, as I begin my freshman year at Stanford University, I will proudly flex my Nome-Beltz upbringing [crowd cheers]”.

The commencement address was given by newly retired, longtime NBHS teachers Dan and Janeen Sullivan. The two rearranged their travel schedule in order to accept the invitation to speak.

“So here we are… back in the den of the mighty Nanooks!” [crowd cheering]

The pair had some advice for the new graduates.

Janeen: “When you came to the Junior High as 6th graders for orientation, I told you to be active and participate in your education. I told you to go out for extracurriculars, do your homework, ask questions of your teachers — own your education. I tell you the same thing as you leave NBHS behind. Be active and participate in your lives.”

Dan: “Participate in your struggles like we encouraged you to participate in successes. Seek assistance when you need. Ask the questions you need answers to, whether they are school-related, or in your personal life… this is advocating for yourself. Advocacy also requires persistence. Sometimes, you have to ask more than one person… use your network of family and community, but also use the new people in systems you will encounter beyond high school. Don’t give up until you have the answers you need.”

Following the commencement address was the senior slideshow. Baby pictures and senior portraits of each graduating senior were received by a laughing, crying, and cheering crowd.

Even more cheers and tears followed as the seniors then walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, presented by Nome School Board President Brandy Arrington.

NBHS Principal John Berkeley says it was an “extra special” graduation. At the ceremony’s start, he shared that he has followed the class since their freshman year in January 2016, when he first took on his role as principal. He departs Nome this summer after watching the class graduate.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you, the class of 2019!”

Confetti and balloons rained down as the graduating seniors tossed their caps. Their younger siblings, cousins, and fellow community members ran in for hugs — and to pop the balloons.

The graduates soon will head to various universities and vocations across the state and country, some remaining home in Nome. For each of them, one thing is for sure: summer is in session.

Image at top: Nome-Beltz Class of 2019 toss their caps at graduation on May 22. Photo: Katie Kazmierski, KNOM.

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