PUBLISHED: 5:14 PM on Wednesday, January 9, 2008
Lessons learned in life's classroom
When I considered just more than two years ago of moving to Juneau from the Texas Panhandle, I already had plans. I was going to continue my education by attending graduate school at West Texas A&M University in Canyon, then my home for four years while I earned a bachelor's degree. However, my life took a different direction. I opted out of graduate school the day I received my letter of acceptance so that I could move to an area different from any other I had known.

Everyone called it an adventure, but I thought of it as more of a learning experience. I was asked often how long I would be in Alaska. I said at least two years no matter how much I liked or disliked it, as to get the full spectrum of the experience. After all, graduate school would take me two years, so I would consider Juneau my graduate school. Well, the two-year mark hit in September, and while I do love Alaska, it's time to "graduate." Juneau has a very special place in my heart, and I know I will be back for visits. But I feel like I'm ready to go "home" again. I'm leaving Juneau to move closer to my family, which have been patient and supportive in my endeavors. I won't be taking classes at WTAMU anymore, but giving back to the community that gave so much to me by serving as managing editor of The Canyon News, a bi-weekly county newspaper. While I'll be returning to Canyon, this next step is just as much of an adventure. After growing up in the Oklahoma Panhandle in a very small, rural town, Canyon was a place for me to learn and grow as a person, much like Juneau has been. But while I was learning in the classroom, now life is where I'm learning most of my lessons. Here are some of the things I've learned during my time in Juneau for "graduate school."

• Conduct some research before cooking something you've never before tried - especially if it's alive. In my first and only attempt to prepare Dungeness crab at home, I got quite a wake up call. I had heard people talk about doing it, and I didn't think it would be that difficult. However, I wasn't prepared for my dinner to escape from the plastic bag and run around my kitchen. The chase finally came to an end, but by the time it was all said and done, I was too tired to eat. I'll leave that to the pros.

• Extracurricular activities are valuable lessons so don't play it safe. I'm a rather clumsy person, but that didn't stop me from trying things Southeast Alaska had to offer. Although I took a bad fall while ice skating, classes at Treadwell Arena in Juneau were a fun time to meet people and get some exercise. Then there was the zip line at Icy Strait Point near Hoonah. Dubbed as the longest zip line in the world, I couldn't resist a chance to try this out. It took 40 minutes to get up the mountain by bus, and a mere 90 seconds to get down. The landing was a bit rough, but it was worth the view on the way down.

• Friends and co-workers are sometimes the best classmates and instructors. Whether it be laughing with me through a crazy experience or giving me advice when I needed it most, the people in my circle in Juneau have been my support system. There are too many to name, but I've got to highlight a few, such as Lee Leschper, general manager of Capital City Weekly. Lee is an amazing boss who has trusted me to do my job and been there to support me in whatever way he is able. I can't imagine coming to Juneau to work without Lee's support. My co-workers at the paper are my friends, and I'm going to miss the many potluck lunches and unsolicited personal advice they tend to dole out to me. I've also been fortunate to have a great group of friends here in Juneau. Thanks for everything, ya'll.

• Volunteering comes back full-fold. When I applied for Big Brothers Big Sisters after living in Juneau only a month, I thought I might be getting in over my head. I was matched with an extraordinary girl named Alison. She was my first new friend in Juneau, and while distance may separate us, I look forward to keeping in touch with her as she grows up. I thought that volunteering would help a child, but what I found out is that child enriched my life for a lifetime.

So those are just a few of the lessons I've learned while in Juneau. Thank you Southeast Alaska for giving Capital City Weekly a place in your community and for broadening this country girl's horizons.

Amanda Gragert is editor of Capital City Weekly, and this is her final issue before moving to Canyon, Texas. To make story suggestions to Capital City Weekly, contact Lee Leschper, general manager, at