The Backwoods

Where we teeter between our love of modern convenience and the yearning for something long past; a world where neighbors knew your name and a “Friend Request” was eye contact and a smile.

Two Down, Six To Go (aka Destini’s Graduation)

Posted · 24 Comments

Our Destini graduated from high school last week and in honor of her success, I’d like to embarrass her a bit by sharing a story with the world.

Five years ago this August I picked up my phone to find an Alaska State Trooper on the other end.  He explained to me that my daughter, my sweet one, my smart one, my good child…My Destini…had gotten into some trouble with the law.  Nothing I’ll explain here, but suffice to say it was not much more than minor thirteen year old mischief.  It wasn’t the act that disturbed me, so much as that a police officer was the one telling me about it and I saw it as the possible trail down the rabbit hole of doom so many teenagers fall easily in to.

We’d been sending our older kids in to Soldotna, twelve miles to the north of our home in Kasilof and until that time, had not really seen an option.  For some reason, our eyes were closed to the possibilities and our children suffered the consequences.

After the trooper call, we knew what we would do. We’d send her to school in Ninilchik.

Oh, for the love of it all…not NINILCHIK!

She was devastated.  She was forlorn.  She was downright pissed.

Ninilchik was a hick town.  Ninilchik was small and boring.  Ninilchik was in the middle of nowhere!…or so she whined.

And we sent her anyway.  Because sometimes as a parent, you grit your teeth and do what you know is right whether they hate you for it or not.

And sometimes…it pays off.  Watch her Salutatorian speech below to see the results!


Destini’s Salutatorian speech:

“Five years ago, I would never have seen myself in this position. Fresh out of my rebellious stage, and brand new to this town, I was sure sending me here was a punishment. I’ll admit, Ninilchik was the last place I wanted to be. But looking back, it was the best possible decision. Had it not been for the people of this school and community, I firmly believe I wouldn’t be standing here, giving this speech, and holding this title. You have all helped me become the person I am today, and I don’t know where I’d be without each and every one of you. Robert Frost said home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in. I didn’t grow up here. My family has not been here for generations. I’ve been to a lot of different schools in my life, but this is home. Within these walls, I’ve learned my most important life lessons, and done more growing up in five years than I did the thirteen years before.

But enough about the past; this is it. I’ve never been one for endings, of good books, or good friendships, so this is not going to be about ending a chapter in our lives. This will be about the amazing beginning of one. For leaving here today will not be the epilogue to your life story, but the prologue. The last 18 years have led to this moment and, together, no matter what happens when we leave here today, we’ll be ready for anything: to take on life, to take on love, to take on possibility and responsibility. Today, our lives begin. This evening, we realize all of our dreams are possible. We leave here with success at our fingertips, a blank slate, and the opportunity to be anything.

A great man once said, “One voice can change a room”. Be that voice. Understand that this is where it all starts. For the rest of our lives, we will be questioned. Don’t let yourself be the answer to these questions. Research says only 67% of high school students in Alaska actually graduate. Well, class, we’ve already beat the odds. Continue to stand out, dream big, question everything, and remember that happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light. Congratulations, Class of 2012.”


24 Responses to "Two Down, Six To Go (aka Destini’s Graduation)"
  1. backwoodsmama says:

    Just found your blog and am LOVING it!! When I get spare moments, I spend them on here. Haha. Your way of parenting is amazing and I hope that I can use some tips with my own little son. What an amazing speech that your daughter gave!! Be proud!

  2. Gayle says:

    That’s what makes you so awesome… you can make those tough decisions… and then they pay off. Just awesome!!

  3. Dot Mansen says:

     Congratulations Destini and Keri & Danny–I had lunch with Grandma
    today and she had a wonderful time had be go to this site.  What a
    beautiful speech you gave and mom & dad need to be proud.  I saw you
    when you were 1 or 2 at the campground in Lake California and I have
    been to Alaska and remember the area of Ninilchic – we camped where
    they launch the boats with the tracters-I think it’s Anchor Point.  Hope to see you again someday.  Dot Mansen

  4. Kim says:

    Congratulations. Also a mother of a high school senior (graduation next weekend!), I know the feeling….happiness, bursting with pride, a touch of sadness and lots of love. Best wishes on future adventures.

  5. KayCee says:

    I hope I am not the only one sitting here in the dark crying ….. what an amazing young woman, your Destini!   I am sure that she will be the light in the dark for everyone who knows her.   We are all truly blessed to have been touched by her, and to have “met” her, even if just for 2 minutes and 37 seconds.

    Thank you Keri, and most of all thank you Destini!

  6. Nicklos7877 says:

    Well done Destini. Now pull on your big girl panties and step out into the future. We all learn from mistakes and missteps … let’s hope yours are small ones…enough to learn something from them     and    not enough to want to repeat them. But bigger cities hold bigger dangers for a young girl. Always watch where you are . Alway scan the room, the street, the library, the cafe. In other words watch your OWN back. Because you have to keep YOU  safe. And be sure to have fun. This can be the most fun time in your life where it’s just you responsible for just you. So when you are older with a family of your own, a business of your own or a place of your own with payments due you can say … I worked for this  and I enjoyed every minute despite all the effort to get here. And finally, if you’re looking at a career be sure you really like what you are doing because you might have to do it for the next 47 years or so. Let’s hope not though. 

    Congratulations on a job well done.

    Jill Nicklos

  7. Nancy says:

    Beautiful and well said.. Congratulations and remember all this when you leave home.. You are going to do great!!!

  8. Lori says:

    Beautiful. Congratulations and all the best to Destini!

  9. Pat says:

    Beautiful speech and she is so beautiful in her cap and gown – just gorgeous!!

  10. Lara Rogers-Mcginnis says:

    I can’t wait to hear the next graduation speech.  

  11. Kristin Riley says:


  12. Night Rider says:

    Excellent  job by both you and Destini. You for stepping up, and her for hanging in and figuring it out.

    I had to do the same thing at 15. Make a tough decision, or proceed down the road I was on, and just wait for the wreck that was sure to happen, and which eventually took some friends that didn’t have the option I had.

    I’m glad she had an option, and chose to make the best of it.

  13. Chris Cowans says:

    Great job, Destini. Congratulations, dream big, live larger, and best wishes for a bright and successful future. I am happy for you.

  14. Mum2Em&Tj says:


  15. Ritamyson says:

    You have a lovely daughter!! You must be pleased with her accomplishment!!

  16. Jaime says:

    Awesome!!!  Congrats to Destini!!  P.S.  Love the Dumbledore quote at the end!!

  17. What a wonderful speech!  She said so much, so eloquently…and in less than three minutes, too.  I’ve listened to numerous salutatorian speeches that were long, drawn out and boring.  Maybe Destini could make her fortune teaching speech-writing.  Great job, young lady!  🙂

  18. Missy Kenny Corron says:

    Wow… simple and straight forward… I wish her much success in her life… she has all the tools… I pray she uses them well!

  19. Lynn says:

    Totally impressed, clear thinking is a huge factor in your family. Being able to talk without fear is a by-product of any large family where one must be able to insert into the conversation quickly and clearly before the next subject takes the floor.  Well Done ALL.

  20. Rivers3lady says:

    Congratulations Destini~~

  21. Jameshaeberle says:

    She did beautifully.  What a cute kid!  Something she said reminded me of one of Barbra Streisand’s lines from the old movie, The Way We Were.  “Commencement.  Funny word the end.”  Destini has the right attitude, that it’s really the beginning.

  22. Kendrajwade says:

    Bravo Destini!!! You will be amazing!!!

  23. Pam says:

    As in really, really good, and I am speechless.

  24. Pam says:


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