Thomas Ferlauto is a graduating senior at Yaakoosgé Daakahidi High School. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Thomas Ferlauto is a graduating senior at Yaakoosgé Daakahidi High School. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Pomp and different circumstances: Class of 2019 graduates found different ways to reach the same stage

Meet three of this year’s graduating seniors

Three different paths are converging before going totally separate ways.

Jordan Bluett, Thomas Ferlauto and Bailey Wery Tagaban will all collect high school diplomas today at similar ceremonies, but each graduating senior has different plans for what comes next and made it to graduation in their own way.

Ferlauto, who is graduating from Yaakoosge Daakahidi Alternative High School, is surprised the day came at all.

“I was not really sure if I completely qualified as depressed, but I didn’t really want to pursue a life ahead of me,” Ferlauto said. “Everything seems kind of menial and boring. I didn’t want the drudgerous lifestyle of the standard adult. I genuinely did not want to pursue any life whatsoever. I thought my plan was to wait until life got miserable enough for me to end it.”

Mental health programs offered by Alaska Crossings and Northwest Behavioral Healthcare Services helped Ferlauto reframe his thinking and ignite a spark of motivation that now burns bright. He said the big shift came about 18 months ago, and he’s felt a new sense of motivation ever since.

Thomas Ferlauto is a graduating senior at Yaakoosgé Daakahidi High School. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Thomas Ferlauto is a graduating senior at Yaakoosgé Daakahidi High School. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“I discovered I had a passion for discovery,” Ferlauto said. “We were given a long stay on an island, and I had tons of free time to sit in a cabin and think while I stared at gigantic slugs. I kind of realized that … legacy is something I can be motivated by, and I realized one of the things I was motivated to do is discover something and learn more about the universe.”

While he doesn’t have his plans totally cemented, Ferlauto said he intends to take some sort of college classes, will always continue to learn and he would ultimately like to become a nuerobiologist.

[A different sort of graduation]

Wery Tagaban has more definite plans for both her immediate and distant futures.

First, the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé senior will speak at her graduation ceremony today.

“I just wanted to inspire the students to go out into the world and do whatever they set their hearts to do,” Wery Tagaban said.

When the summer draws to a close she will be attending True North School of Leadership in Fairbanks.

“I’m going to be majoring in ministry leadership,” Wery Tagaban said. “It’s just been set on my heart for the last couple of years now, and that school specifically, I’ve been able to go visit there. I love the people there, and I’m going to start doing missions there because that (doing missions) is ideally where I’m going to end up.”

Senior Bailey Wery Tagaban will be one of the student speakers at the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé graduation on Sunday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Senior Bailey Wery Tagaban will be one of the student speakers at the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé graduation on Sunday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

That’s going to mean some big changes for the lifelong Juneauite and basketball, soccer and track star.

[JDHS girls soccer coaches bid farewell to seniors]

“I’ll probably do some intramural stuff up in Fairbanks, but I think that’s going to be it for the sports,” Wery Tagaban said.

But she’s eager to experience living away from Juneau for the first time —even if it is bittersweet.

“I’m really excited just because of the people up there I know are going to grow me, they’re going to push me to become the best me that I can, and I’m ready to go and learn and then reach the peak,” Wery Tagaban said. “I’m definitely going to miss the people here. It’s going to be weird, but I’m excited.”

Jordan Bluett has a few things in common with Wery Tagaban.

The Thunder Mountain High School senior will also be speaking at his graduation ceremony, plays the tenor sax and be moving away from Juneau to attend Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington.

“I took a trip with my mom last summer to just tour colleges in Washington and Idaho, and we ended up there on our return trip, and it just really clicked with me,” Bluett said. “Right now, my tentative major is going to be history. It’s always been a passion of mine. I just like studying cause and effect and how the world interacts with each other.”

[A senior prank with class]

Bluett was student body president and his favorite historical figure is Teddy Roosevelt, but his biggest dream is far from the political sphere — he’d like to become a voice actor.

That’s part of the reason he feels inclined toward public speaking and delivering a speech that encourages his classmates to try their best to empathize with others and understand themselves.

Jordan Bluett will be one of the student speakers at the Thunder Mountain High School graduation on Sunday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Jordan Bluett will be one of the student speakers at the Thunder Mountain High School graduation on Sunday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“It’s not exactly breaking your comfort zone or going out of it, it’s all about establishing and re-establishing your comfort zone,” Bluett said. “It’s the difference between learning who you are and testing an already prove hypothesis about who you are.”

Bluett’s pending studies in Washington is something he anticipates pushing up against his comfort zone, but he said he’s ready for that and confident it will go OK. After all, he, and the rest of the class of 2019 have made it this far.

“I can’t tell you if it’s going to be tough or easy to be honest, but I’m not worried about things turning out badly, to be honest with you,” he said.

Celebrate safely

There will be a safe graduation party for all high school graduates starting at 10 p.m. Sunday at the University of Alaska Southeast Recreation Center. The party will end at 2:19 a.m. Monday.

There will be a drawing for a $2,019 grand prize at the end of the party, and the winner must be in attendance.

The event is sponsored by the nonprofit Parents for a Safe Graduation.

Attendees are allowed to bring one guest, who must be between 16 and 20, and there is a $10 entrance fee for guests. Party-goers must be present no later than 11:30 p.m., there is no re-admittance after leaving, no bottles or containers are allowed inside and backpacks and purses must be coatchecked.


• Contact reporter Ben Hohenstatt at (907)523-2243 or bhohenstatt@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenHohenstatt.


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