Valedictorians Alexis Francisco, Julia Murph and Van Abbott address the class of 2018 Tuesday, May 29, 2018 in the Petersburg High School gym. (Joe Viechnicki/KFSK)

Friends, family and faculty Tuesday, May 29 celebrated 45 students in the graduating class of 2018 at Petersburg High School.

The commencement ceremony featured performances by the high school’s concert choir and concert band.

Teacher Gregg Kowalski was the featured speaker and was grateful to finally have someone from Stedman Elementary School in that role.

“Tonight after 17 years of teaching in Petersburg’s school system, I was reminded at this point in time, quite literally, just like all those children who are always picked last for their teams in playgrounds across America, if you hang around long enough you just might get chosen,” Kowalski said, drawing a laugh from the crowd at the high school gym.

Kowalski had a message for the graduates. “You are a gift to be unwrapped, unveiling new possibilities, capabilities, mysteries, hopes, dreams and aspirations,” he said. “Every day provides an opportunity for you to give, to love and to learn. Every decision matters and holds the potential to make each day one to remember within yourself but more importantly in the lives of others, every day.”

Valedictorians of the class were Van Abbott, Alexis Francisco and Julia Murph and they spoke with gratitude to their classmates, families and the community.

“You have been an amazing class to grow up with and I truly would not want to graduate tonight with anyone else in the world,” Abbott said. “You are family to me so thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the memories and for the pride coupled with being a member of this family. Remember, who we are cannot be separated from where we’re from. And who we are is the class of 2018 and where we’re from is Petersburg, Alaska.”

“I dedicate the honor of speaking today to my mom who is my inspiration,” Francisco said. “She encouraged me to always be strong, especially in the toughest times. She taught me that there is a solution to every problem and never failed to show her love to her stubborn children. Thank you mom.

“And now here we are all gathered in blue,” Murph said reading from a poem she wrote. “Our journey was long, all is about to be new. Our parents shed tears. Our aunts wipe their eyes cause all through the years they stood by our sides. So here’s to our parents, our brothers, our sisters, our aunts and our uncles, grandma, pa and nieces. And so this poem ends with gratitude and a kiss. I’m all out of ideas, all of you I shall miss.”

The salutatorian of this year’s class was Katie Brock and the class history was presented by Abbey Hardie (hardy) and Helen Martin. The class gift this year was donated to the Petersburg Community Foundation.

Scholarship money from local donors and organizations totaled 81,650 dollars while the total scholarship money secured by the graduating class was over 1.1 million dollars.