Former Thunder Mountain High School JV basketball coach Kylie Ibias, and former TMHS JV basketball and volleyball coach Arnold Ibias sit in the TMHS gymnasium during an interview for a soon-to-be released documentary. (Photo courtesy of Sonny Hunt-Mauricio)

Former Thunder Mountain High School JV basketball coach Kylie Ibias, and former TMHS JV basketball and volleyball coach Arnold Ibias sit in the TMHS gymnasium during an interview for a soon-to-be released documentary. (Photo courtesy of Sonny Hunt-Mauricio)

16 years of Thunder Mountain High School commemorated through two documentaries

Three Falcons alumni release their project before school’s final graduation; another coming in June.

Thunder Mountain High School may be closing under the Juneau School District’s consolidation plan, but teacher Janna Lelchuk and former TMHS students are making sure the history of the school is not forgotten.

Lelchuk taught at TMHS from its inception in 2008 until 2023. During her time there she taught Russian, digital arts and yearbook. TMHS held its first end-of-year slideshow in 2011 when Lelchuk joined the yearbook. She digitally stored memories which she’s now compiled into a 20-minute video titled “16 Years of Thunder” shared from her personal YouTube account.

She finished editing in time for the video to be played on May 24, the last day of school at TMHS. The video includes a list of awards and achievements at TMHS in the closing credits. Anton Radke, a TMHS graduate of 2013, wrote the electronic music for “16 Years of Thunder.’”

“I realized we made history,” Lelchuk said. “Looking at all our accomplishments over the years, I can’t be more happy and proud. It has been an honor for me to be a Falcon and I will carry this pride throughout my life.”

“It’s a Thunderdome,” she added. “I was teaching Russian language. Dome, you know what that means? It means home (in Russian). That was my home.”

TMHS alumnus Sonny Hunt-Mauricio helped with the graphic design of “16 Years of Thunder” and he is working with TMHS alumna Karina Ireno to release a second documentary by the end of June.

Their idea for a documentary surfaced from the 2015 and 2016 TMHS lip dubs, which Hunt-Mauricio filmed and edited while in high school. The TMHS lip dubs were created to raise funding for TMHS activities.

The interview-style documentary, which is yet to be titled, features teachers, current students and alumni answering a series of questions about their time at TMHS.

“We talked to people who had a big impact on the school,” Hunt-Mauricio said. “We got Dan Larson in there, Rhonda, Andy, Tina Lee, Arnold Ibias; a bunch of people who have a deep history with the school. We had them just talk about it and share what made the school special and how the community at that school was just different.”

One of the questions Hunt-Mauricio asked was “how would you describe TMHS in three words?”

He said the most common responses were “inclusive” and “a community.”

For Hunt-Mauricio, a 2017 graduate, TMHS leaves a lasting impact. He participated in the TMHS yearbook for all four years of high school.

“What really changed me was a teacher was able to pick me out from the crowd and say, ‘Hey, you have something you’re really good at and we want to put a light on that,’ and I feel like when you’re in an overpacked school, it’s harder to pick a student out,” he said. “My freshman year I was in a science class with Ms. Wells and we did this project. I decided I wanted to do it in Photoshop. She came back to me and said, ‘Hey, the yearbook teacher wants someone who does Photoshop and you should do it.’”

Hunt-Mauricio was one of the first freshmen to be a part of the TMHS yearbook. He said before joining he was always shy and that moment of feeling visible “changed everything.”

He said he hopes his documentary will shine a light on TMHS like his teachers did on him.

“I think for the people who are really being affected by it, I just hope that this gives them what they need to hear to be able to transition through this smoothly,” he said.

Both documentary projects follow another film by two newly graduated TMHS students about circumstances resulting in the school’s closure, “Digging a Hole in the School Budget,” which was honored at the See Stories film festival in Anchorage on May 9.

Hunt-Mauricio said if anyone would like to be included in the upcoming documentary they can send a 5–10-minute cell phone video by June 10 to northernstatemedia@gmail.com. Here are the questions he’d like answered:

• How would you describe the TMHS community?

• How would you describe TMHS in three words?

• How has TMHS impacted or shaped who you are?

• What is a favorite memory you’ve had at TMHS?

• Do you have any funny or embarrassing stories from TMHS?

• Where would you be if TMHS never existed?

• Would you like to say anything to the current students, staff, and community affected by the school closing?

• Contact Jasz Garrett at jasz.garrett@juneauempire.com or (907) 723-9356.

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