Forty-seven beaming graduates crossed the stage on the Ignacio High School football field on Saturday to get their long-awaited diplomas.
IHS teacher Tyson Wood, who gave the commencement address, told the students, "it's a great day to be a Bobcat."
Life has its lows, as well, Wood said, referring to the recent deaths of young people in Ignacio.
"Sometimes, it's a hard day to be a Bobcat," he said. "Bring more kindness into this world. When you do, it will be a great day to be a Bobcat."
At the end of his address, he asked past graduates of IHS to rise in the stands.
"This is your new family," he told the soon-to-be graduates.
Also addressing the class was Burt Baldwin, a retired member of the Ignacio faculty.
Valedictorian John Valdez thanked his family members for their support during his academic career, telling the audience he will be proud to represent his Ute heritage and the town of Ignacio at Willamette University in Oregon.
He also quoted college basketball coach Jim Valvano, who said, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up."
Valdez said that quote helped him when he was tired and he didn't want to write one more paper for his senior year. It also pushed him on the basketball court, as well, particularly when he wasn't playing as well as he liked.
"Try to be the best person you can be," he told his classmates.
Salutatorian Gabriana Creason said while graduation is a time to look to the future, right now, the class of 2018 is made up of survivors.
She and her classmates have grown up in a time of war, terrorism, economic uncertainty and, unfortunately, school shootings, she said, so making it to graduation is an achievement in itself.
Several seniors celebrated that achievement as they received their diplomas, posing for photos and waving to family and friends.
The class has garnered $754,000 in scholarships this year, Principal Melanie Taylor said proudly.
Nathan Atencio and Daniel Weaver presented the benediction, also thanking their family and friends for guiding them through their school years.
After the classmates tossed their mortarboards in the air, they met their family members on the field as the '80s-era song "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey blared from the loudspeakers.