Eagle River grads look to the future

Saturday, May 20, 2017 - 19:41
  • Eagle River graduate Shawn Stockwell, a heart transplant patient, makes his way through the faculty and staff receiving line during the Eagle River High graduation ceremonies on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Stockwell survived a heart transplant when he was just 9 years old. (Photo for the Star by Michael Dinneen)
  • Eagle River graduate Chris Echols, who sang from the stage during the ceremonies, gets a hug from a faculty member. More than 160 Eagle River High graduates participated in the school’s graduation ceremony at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Photo for the Star by Michael Dinneen.
  • Photo courtesy Salina Brightbill Eagle River High School Salutatorian and JROTC cadet Cole Mooty attends an Alaska World Affairs Council luncheon March 24, 2017. Nineteen JROTC cadets are set to graduate with the ERHS Class of 2017.
  • Eagle River High School Valedictorian Jack Moseley smiles for a senior photo. Moseley plans on attending Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY to study computer engineering. (Photo courtesy Moseley family)
  • Eagle River High School graduate Elle Adkins gets congratulations from a faculty member. More than 160 Eagle River High graduates participated in the school’s graduation ceremony at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Photo for the Star by Michael Dinneen.
  • Eagle River graduate Cameron Smith makes his way through the faculty and staff receiving line. More than 160 Eagle River High graduates participated in the school’s graduation ceremony at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Photo for the Star by Michael Dinneen.
  • Eagle River graduate Hunter Terminel holds his graduation rose in his teeth. More than 160 Eagle River High graduates participated in the school’s graduation ceremony at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Photo for the Star by Michael Dinneen
  • Eagle River graduate Keogh Barnes moves his tassle from right to left at the end of the ceremony. More than 160 Eagle River High graduates participated in the school’s graduation ceremony at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage on Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Photo for the Star by Michael Dinneen.

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.

Eagle River grads aim high

While the Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps at Eagle River High School is used to setting the bar high, this year marks a new milestone.

“It’s one of the best graduating classes that we’ve ever had,” said Chief Master Sgt. Bill McNew of the Eagle River Air Force JROTC. “This class, academically, has set the standard.”

Since he helped found the ERHS program 11 years ago, it’s more than doubled in size, he said. This spring, approximately 10 percent of graduating ERHS seniors were JROTC cadets. Five of the 19 graduating cadets landed in the top 10 percent of the senior class, McNew said.

Then there’s salutatorian Cole Mooty, the first four-year Air Force JROTC cadet from Eagle River High School to become a direct appointee to the U.S. Air Force Academy. A former JROTC corps commander, Mooty was also nominated for the U.S. Military Academy – but you won’t hear him bragging about any of it.

“He is probably the most humble young man that I’ve ever met,” McNew said. “He comes from a wonderful family.”

At ERHS, Mooty followed in the footsteps of two older siblings who also participated in the Air Force JROTC program there. Now his older brother is a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army, he said. His father is a retired Air Force officer. Military life seems to run in his family.

Four years ago, though, he had a very different plan in mind.

“My goals have changed a lot,” Mooty said in an interview the weekend before graduation. “When I entered high school, I actually wanted to be a pastor.”

A talent for math and science eventually turned his focus elsewhere. He joined the school robotics team. In the Air Force JROTC, he worked hard and rose through the ranks, McNew said. Last year, Mooty was named corps commander for the JROTC summer camp, responsible for the success of the entire cadet leadership course over the course of a two-week commitment. The teen “did a tremendous job,” McNew said.

That was around the time Mooty decided to pursue a post-secondary technical degree, he said. He’d decided to go into the armed forces, too.

“I don’t think you can really appreciate freedom until you’ve fought for it,” Mooty said.

Applying to the academies was more difficult than applying to almost any other college on his list, he said. He sent documents, spoke with admissions officers and prepared for interviews. He completed evaluations and assessments and checks. After about January, he said, “it was sort of just a waiting game.”

Until one day a few weeks later, when his younger sister walked into the room holding the family telephone.

“Hey, there’s a Lisa Murkowski on the phone for you,” she said.

Mooty was in at the Air Force Academy. Then, a few weeks later, he received some more good news – he was in at the Military Academy, too.

He said he ultimately chose the Air Force Academy because of the school’s focus on technical degrees and its selection of majors. More than half a dozen other ERHS students were also nominated to military academies this year.

Mooty and his fellow JROTC cadets were among a graduating class of about 190 students. At Tuesday’s graduation ceremony, the graduates hugged, posed for photos and smiled big, relieved grins.

Among the group was Shawn Stockwell, whose story is familiar to Chugiak-Eagle River residents due to his survival of a heart transplant when he was just 9 years old. On Tuesday, Stockwell walked across the stage, flashing a wide grin as he completed his journey of survial from heart patient to high school graduate.

After the ceremony, some graduates talked about their plans for the future, others were only looking as far as the summer.

“Freedom!” exclaimed graduate Dyna Campbell after she walked across the stage.

Campbell said her plan is to strike out on her own.

“I’m planning on opening my own business in the next four years, either a restaurant or a hobby shop.”

Star contributing photographer Michael Dinneen contributed to this story.

Eagle River High School Class of 2017:

* Elle N Adkins

Xavier J Alers

Aidan J Allison

Sean M Anderson

* Tessa A Anderson

Amelia M D Arnes

Sierra Arnold

Kayla M Ash

*** Laura J Barber

Grant A Barkhurst

Keough K Barnes

Thane A Barta

*** Nichole S Bearden (Seal of Biliteracy)

Joshua J Bechtol

Anastasia R Belcher

Emily A C Berard

** Kaitlin E Bernhardt

Keith H Berry

Gabrielle J Breitsprecher

Cameron P Brown

* John K Burke

Wesley P Burton

Dean A Bussey

Lawrence A Calkins

Dyna C Campbell

Robert J Carlton

Jasmine R Carter

Eric L Case

Casey B Clay

** Brekken S Cogswell

Blaise V Coy

Hope L Cronan

* Tyler B Cruz

Payton W Deason

* Raymond Delgado

Dayton W Denter

* Dixie J Dittbrenner

Sophia G Dolan

Jason M Donahue

Dennis L Douthitt

Christopher D Echols Jr

Ethan D M Ellis

** Jeremy A Eppard

Dylan T Evans

Anthony S Fan

*** Sarah E J Feinstein

Tyler G Fevurly

Heather L Findlay

Nigel G Floyd

Bryce E Fox-Icarro

Mallory A Garbe

Caleb Garcia

Isaac W Garcia

Meikalis L Garcia

Allison M Gawrys

* Hunter A George (Seal of Biliteracy)

* Dilon L Gladwill

Bethany A Gonzalez

Steven J Gonzalez Mendez

Shadé T Gopie

Lauryn F Green

Schuyler B S Ham (Seal of Biliteracy)

* David A S Harris

Rashad S Haskin

Brandon D Hill

Bryson S Hill

Joshua K Holt

* Tiffany B Itz

* Ashley N James

Bret H Jedlicki

Allison R Jimenez

Blake R Johnson

Dylan B Johnson

Emily G Johnson

Jason W Johnson

Joshua L Johnson

* Maile K Johnston

Timothy J Jones

Kaylee A Jordan

Isaiah D Kelley

Jonquez L Kind

David J Knudsen

Mark W Korzon

** Abigail P Lampman

Samantha R Lavey

* Michael A Lawrence

Robert J Lecours

Kaitlyn T Lee

** Soo J Lee

** Kerhyl E Lehman

Justin L Little

*** Joshua V Luff

Tyler J Lukacz

* Allee K Maggio

Abby T Mampreian

Luz M Mann

*** Blake A McCal

John H McCurtain

** Brady A McGee

Haley M McGrew

Kayla K McKinley

Robert L McMillian Jr

* Jordan R Meredith

Jayden T Meyer

** Thomas M Midlo

** Joseph H Min

Jason M Mobley

*** Cole M Mooty (Salutatorian; Seal of Biliteracy)

* Nathan R Morales

Connor P Moran

*** Jack W Moseley (Valedictorian)

Lauryn A Mulkey

Autumn M Mullenix

Joseph V Musick

Reid A Myers

Rebecca L Nall

Collin C Neilson

Terra H Nicholson

Carrie A Nordlof

Eric Z Olson

** Nicolas J Osborne

** Jade N Pandres

Jack W Paskievitch

Kate W Paskievitch (Seal of Biliteracy)

Edyn J Perino

* Montana S Petering

*** Stephen I Peyton

Raymond M Platt Jr

Dawson C Porter

* Jordan M Porter

Nicklas T Prior (Seal of Biliteracy)

Logan J Rachow

Emily T Ragina

Abigail L Rathkopf

Juan M Raymundo

Matthew B Ries

Alexa A M Robertson

Brandon I Rose

** Abigail E Roth

Jeremiah A Russell

William R Salter (Seal of Biliteracy)

Adrian R Sampson

* Lauren R Sausaman

* Jessica S Scott

Joseph C Sewell

** Ariel A Smith

Cameron B Smith

* Charles B Sperling

Veronica M Stewart

Shawn R Stockwell

Austin T Strain

* Ashton M Stubblefield

* Laura X Sturley

* Benjamin M Talotta

Hayden S Taylor

Kevin C Teagarden

Makennzie M Tennant

Austin C Terminel

Hunter B Terminel

*** Danielle L Thomas

** Jessica D Tillman

Morraina M Tirado

Daniel Toribio Jr

Joseph A Townsend

Yampierre O Valentin Espada

** Lindsey D Vance

Abigail V Vanderburg

*** Kristen D Ward (Seal of Biliteracy)

Chase A Warren

Jabari J Watson

Tyler A Wilber

Thorstein J Wilhelm

Alyson K Williams

Saraya C Willis

Sarah N Wilson

Savion L Wilson

* Kyle M Wisdom

Alecsander A Wolfert

Mia D Wulf

** Hannah L A Yaw

Bradley C Yeargan

* John D Zaremba

Sarah J Earnhart

Exchange Students:

Sadaf Abid, Pakistan

Dayana Carolina Culqui Espin, Equador

Marie Dohlen, Norway; (Seal of Biliteracy)

Guanyang Li, China

Patricio Lira Ceron, Mexico

Nuriya Mullo Abdolova, Tajikistan

Santiago Valencia Rojas, Columbia

Krzysztof Warych, Poland

Emma Weidner, Germany

* Cum Laude

** Magna Cum Laude

*** Summa Cum Laude

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