WASILLA — Mat-Su Central School and Wasilla High School graduated on Thursday as the second to last wave of Valley seniors to graduate this year.

“You see, regardless of our race, gender or economic status we all have the same gift: time,” Mat-Su Central student speaker Jose Camacho said.

Student speaker Shaela Asbury graduated with honors including the Spirit of Youth recipient award for compassionate youth who demonstrate leadership and service in the community.

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Asbury took a moment to acknowledge that she and her fellow graduates made it. She asked if they ever had a day where they woke up dreading going to school then asked them to stand up if they went to school anyway. All the grads stood up.

“Stand up if you’ve ever felt behind in your studies but continued to work to understand anyway. Stand up if you went to school and worked a job to support yourself or support someone else. Stand up if you ever felt you were unjustly treated but rose above to find resolution. Stand up if there was ever even a second where you thought you might not be here graduating today,”

She asked the class of 2019 to stand together and look back at what they accomplished.

“You chose to take your education into your own hands. You chose to take your life into your own hands. And most importantly, you chose to make your future what you want,” Asbury said.

Student speaker Ashley Hoylman came to Mat-Su Central as freshman looking for something different. She took on site classes, college courses, student worker position and even experienced some international travel during her time there. She said that she felt like the “outcast” in middle school but thanks to the support from staff at Mat-Su Central, her confidence shined through.

“This place provided us with endless opportunities, things to do and places to see, even other countries,” Hoylman said.

Hoylman wrote a poem to remind her peers that all their efforts that got them there should not be overlooked. She took a deep breath and began.

“…For all the people who stood out, who felt like they didn’t belong; to those who made you feel that way, they were all wrong. Today is for the weirdos, the outcasts, and the strange… take a look around because we proved ourselves this May,” Hoylman said.

Wasilla High salutatorian Kiley Nagl took every advanced place course that fit in her schedule, was an active participant of the Air Force JROTC programs, and received four scholarships. She will soon be attending Woodburn University to study graphics and animation. She gave through thanks to the role models of her life and went into how each one helped her discover the “true Kiley.”

“I hope that as I look at the entirety of the class of 2019, you’ve also experienced the support and learned many lessons from the ones who’ve been there for you in your life,” Nagl said.

Nagl said that it’s the human condition to naturally lean towards the negative more often without taking the time to acknowledge the positive things to be grateful for.

“Because of this, I would like to ask as we officially the world high school this evening and move on with our lives, that you take the time to recognize the good. Take the time to let those who you love know that you love them and practice kindness and mindfulness wherever you go in life. Happiness is the ultimate currency and we as people need to take more time for it,” Nagl said.

Wasilla High valedictorian Caleb Wagle is set to attend UAA going for a nursing major. Wagle told his fellow graduates that their individual experiences shaped them far more than formulas they may or may not have memorized.

“Let me remind you, that the knowledge gained throughout our high school career is far more important than numbers on piece of paper. Your experiences are far more than your GPA or SAT scores,” Wagle said.

Wagle said that all the habits they built up, both good and bad will guide the course of their lives with things like procrastination. He said there’s still time to work. He said there’s still time to change the course. He said that every struggle they face will be an opportunity to grow.

“Thankfully it isn’t too late to change out habits. In the words of Oscar Wilde, ‘experience is simply the name we give our mistakes,’” Wagle said.

Contact Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman reporter Jacob Mann at jacob.mann@frontiersman.com.

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