Madeline Soboleff Levy found her history classes at Juneau-Douglas High School so interesting that she might teach the subject herself.
As about 370 seniors, the largest high school graduating class in Juneau's history, prepare for commencement Saturday in the school's gym, a few students paused to look back, often to remember a teacher who was influential, or just friendly.
Soboleff Levy, 18, will attend Hollins University, a small, selective women's college in Roanoke, Va., on a full-tuition scholarship.
"I'm thinking history, possibly a minor in some facet of business," Soboleff Levy said of her studies. She said she enjoyed history and the teaching style of Shanna Galluzzo at JDHS so much that she wanted to keep studying history.
"I was fascinated by the material we were learning," Soboleff Levy said. "She has a fabulous style of teaching. You have projects, presentations, reading and answering questions."
Soboleff Levy remembers students re-enacting a wartime boot camp in Galluzzo's class.
"You'll go tramping around the graveyard and the school, and doing pushups, crunches where you're on your back in the mud. It doesn't matter about the weather you're going anyway," she said. "You get a clearer picture in your mind what might have really happened, instead of just read from a history book and imagine in your head."
Soboleff Levy said she likes history because she likes knowing where she and others have come from.
Her self-knowledge isn't entirely from academic studies. Since freshman year she has been a member of the All Nations Children's Dance Group, a Tlingit troupe, and she recently joined a Haida dance group.
"It's brought me closer to that side of my family," Soboleff Levy said. "It's an aspect of myself, my personal history, that I hadn't known much about. I know how to introduce myself in Tlingit now."
She was named the most talented contestant in the Miss National Congress of American Indian Pageant in Spokane, Wash., this year for her performance of the Tlingit national anthem.
Soboleff Levy also is part of the JDHS Early Scholars Program, which encourages Native students to aim for college.
"It's provided a network of Native students," she said. "They're just strong people. They achieve a lot in school. They work really hard. A lot have jobs, and keep their grades up."
Paula Dybdahl, a social studies teacher and adviser in the Early Scholars Program, said Soboleff Levy was one of the most grounded and kind people she's met.
"The Maddie I know values teamwork, honesty, diversity and leadership - all qualities that will help her in her higher education and lifetime endeavors," Dybdahl said.
Soboleff Levy also studied ballet at Juneau Dance Unlimited.
"I've kind of always danced," she said. "I was the little girl who was always prancing and skipping around.
"It tones your body. And I think it tones your mind. And it's just something good for the soul."
On the road
For Justin Rasmussen, 18, the road from JDHS may take him to NASCAR or his own auto shop.
Rasmussen plans to study automotive and diesel technology at the Universal Technical Institute in Phoenix, Ariz. He earned a partial scholarship by doing well at the state Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Contest in Anchorage in May with fellow JDHS student Chad Thomas.
"I like hands-on mechanical stuff. I don't really like sitting behind a desk typing stuff," Rasmussen said.
Rasmussen, who took advanced automotive shop classes as well as other shop classes, said he's learned a lot. He said automotive teacher Steve Squires enjoys students and teaching.
"He can joke around with you, like he's a kid, but he can also keep the class in control, get stuff done," Rasmussen said. You can talk to him about cars and hunting and stuff after class.
"There's some teachers that don't seem to like kids, but they're still teaching. It doesn't make sense."
After taking the traditional automotive program, Rasmussen might enroll in UTI courses that prepare students to work in the motorsports industry, such as the National Association of Stock Car Auto Racing.
"It would be fun for a while," he said. "You get good pay and travel around a lot. Around high-performance cars all the time - it would be interesting."
Rasmussen and Thomas placed first in the written test and second in the hands-on portion of the Ford/AAA troubleshooting competition. Figuring out what's wrong with a car is part of the appeal of automotive work.
"There's a lot of problem-solving and troubleshooting going on in automotive," Rasmussen said. "You get a new challenge every day working in a shop."
Squires said it's rewarding to watch students solve problems and apply what they've learned.
"I watched Justin put an entire electrical wiring harness in his truck - no easy task," he said. "He did this all on his own. You don't often see kids with that kind of patience."
Eric Fry can be reached at email@example.com. More JDHS seniors will be profiled in Thursday's and Friday's Empire.
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