Tiny Hoonah High School, with a graduating class of 14, this year is sending students to two of the most selective universities in the United States.
Valedictorian Candy Keown will attend Stanford University in the Bay Area, and salutatorian Agatha Erickson will go to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
"My parents reared me in a way that I always knew it was important to have a good education," Keown said.
Erickson said she learned in sophomore year, as classes became harder, that she had to do well in school.
That was "when I got my first C," she said.
About half the Hoonah school's graduating class typically goes on to some kind of further education, but it's unusual for students to attend such high-powered institutions, said longtime Hoonah teacher Bob Hutton.
He recalls that one local student graduated from Stanford 10 or 15 years ago and another attended Dartmouth but didn't get a degree.
Hutton has known both young women since they were in his grade school music classes. They ended up in his high school physics, chemistry and German classes, as well.
"Both of them have been very dedicated to music as well as academics," Hutton said.
Both students were leaders in the music program and active in sports and the student government, he said.
Erickson, a trombone player, has performed in the Southeast honor band, the all-state band, the all-state orchestra and the all-Northwest band, Hutton said.
"There are plenty of people who can play the notes," he said. "She plays the notes but she has an intrinsic musical feel and she can make beautiful music out of what she does."
Erickson has a positive attitude, he said.
"She's the kind of gal, when she sinks her teeth into something, she doesn't let go," Hutton said.
Likewise, Keown is tenacious, he said. As all valedictorians, she was first in her class.
"It was mostly due to the fact that she's super goal-oriented. She sets her sights on something and she's like a Rottweiler," Hutton said.
Keown, who spent her early years in Sweden, is the daughter of Lisa Andersson, a bank manager who is Tlingit and Swedish, and Richard Keown, who works for the city of Hoonah.
"She has always been very motivated, not just in student life but in her life," Richard Keown said. "She tried to do things the right way."
When Candy first tried to play the clarinet, she couldn't get a certain set of scales right, he said.
"It really bothered her. She worked on it and worked on it," her father said. "And now she plays the clarinet and the saxophone."
Perhaps because English was Candy Keown's second language, she still works to improve it.
At Stanford she may study business law, but would like to put her four years of German to use, as well.
"I've always wanted to be a lawyer," Keown said. "My parents said I'm good at it because I argue my points and get my way a lot."
Erickson is the daughter of Arne Erickson, a teacher, and Susan Erickson, a homemaker who also works for Wings of Alaska. Susan Erickson is Athabascan.
Agatha was involved in school and other activities, participating in Big Brothers Big Sisters and teaching Sunday school, her mother said,
The activities "made her grow more as a person," Susan Erickson said.
Agatha Erickson said Dartmouth's Native studies program appealed to her. She visited the school under a program that recruits Native Americans.
"I just fell in love with the college and I knew it was the place for me," Erickson said.
Erickson isn't sure what she'll major in, but she likes history and politics. She'd like to come back to Alaska, perhaps to "change some stuff for the good."
Eric Fry can be reached at email@example.com.
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