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2002 Graduate – Suzette Lewis

Suzette LewisLocated in South-central Alaska on the shores of Cook Inlet, the Municipality of Anchorage is a unique urban environment situated in the heart of the wilderness. According to anthropological research using the Beluga Point Site located just a short distance from downtown Anchorage, human occupation of the Anchorage area occurred in three waves, the first in 3,000 BC, the second in 2,000 BC, and the third and last at the start of the last millennium. By the time of first contact with European cultures in 1756, the Athabaskan Dena’ina people had displaced the Eskimo people who had originally settled the area.

Russian explorers had established themselves in southern Alaska by 1784, but the English explorer Captain James Cook is credited with first exploring and describing the Anchorage area in 1778 during his third voyage of discovery. Mistaking one of the arms of the inlet for a river, Cook named it “River Turnagain”, later renamed Turnagain Arm by a subsequent British explorer, George Vancouver. During the next hundred years Russian trading activity increased in the Inlet, and Russian cultural influence increased. Then in 1867 problems at home forced the sale of Russian America to the United States for a sum of $7,200,000.

The decade of the 1960’s began on the high note of Alaska’s attaining statehood in 1959. However, another less encouraging event dominated Anchorage’s culture during these years. On March 27th, 1964, a natural disaster of incredible proportions struck Anchorage and South-central Alaska: the Good Friday earthquake. This earthquake measured 8.6 on the Richter scale, the largest ever recorded in North America and, because Anchorage lay only 80 miles from the epicenter damage to structures ran to the hundreds of millions of dollars. Tsunamis (a very large ocean wave caused by an underwater earthquake or volcanic eruption.) Generated by the 1964 earthquake were recorded throughout the Pacific. The largest wave height for this tsunami was reported at Shoup Bay, Valdez Inlet and was 220 feet high (67 Meters.)

On September 26-27, 1971, a particularly unique moment in history occurred at Elmendorf Air Force Base, when then President Richard Nixon met with Emperor Hirohito of Japan. This remarkable meeting marked the first time in Japan’s 2,000-year-old history that their reigning monarch set foot on foreign soil.

The decade of the eighties was also a time of growth for Anchorage, especially for its infrastructure and quality of life. The eighties are also when Suzette Lewis made a regrettable decision and pushed the pause button on her education.

Suzette fell in love, dropped out of high school, and got married, 19 years ago. She has never regretted getting married, but she has shared that she did lament not finishing high school. Suzette and her husband Rick have two daughters, Shawna and Danielle. They are very active in “Youth With A Mission.: Youth With A Mission is an international organization that facilitates missions and community outreach programs.

Suzette set her mind and goals to finish what she started 19 years ago. She chose Citizens’ High School to help her accomplish the task. “I chose Citizens’ High School because, as an adult, it enabled me to complete my diploma requirements, work, and still spend time with my family. Completing school and earning my diploma has provide me with a wonderful sense of accomplishment and a new found confidence.” Suzette hopes to be furthering her education now with college. I am researching colleges that offer distant education programs. I hope to study Elementary Education.” Judging by this photograph, we can see why traveling to school could be an interesting challenge. Besides the safety of home, distant learning does allow you to study while you watch Grizzly bears eat of your trashcans.

We are so very proud of Suzette for never letting go of the goal. We are grateful to her for her convictions of God and family, and finally; we are thankful she chose us to help.

Ms. Suzette Lewis is Citizens’ High School
“Graduate of the Month” for May 2002.