Steamboat Springs For four high school students in Steamboat Springs, the year 2000 is something they've been anticipating since they were children.
"This is an accomplishment that we've all been working toward for 12 years and it's a great feeling," said Mike Westphale, a soon-to-be former student of Steamboat Springs High School.
Besides being the first class in the 21st century to graduate, they also are the first students who had to change the way they cheer for their class. Cori Hands, a senior at Steamboat High, said that when she was a freshman, her class had to respond "Double 0" when the cheerleaders yelled, "What's your number?"
"When I'm older I'm sure I'll look back and think how cool it was to graduate in the new millennium," said Brooke Rygg, a senior at Lowell Whiteman.
Since the seniors of today were young children, many eyes have been on them, watching their development, growth and charting their aspirations. When Rygg and Steamboat High seniors Westphale, Hands and Casey Wheeler were in the second grade and graduation day 2000 was more than a decade away they were first asked questions by the Steamboat Pilot. When they were high school freshmen, the students were contacted again by the newspaper for an update.
"Everyone is so optimistic about our class's success," Wheeler said. "It's exciting, but it's also a lot of pressure."
When Wheeler was in the second grade, she told the Pilot that she wanted to be an art teacher. Now, Wheeler is planning to attend the University of Arizona and major in business. She then wants to go east to graduate school and get involved in international business.
"I think our class is the most aware of all worldly issues we've been involved with in the past, such as HIV and pollution," Wheeler said.
Upon entering her freshman year, Wheeler predicted that her generation would see a lot of changes such as better government and reduced pollution. She now predicts that she and her classmates around the country will be the ones to make their voices heard and they will strive to be individuals.
Rygg advises future generations not to focus so much on grades, but to focus on understanding information and having fun with learning. As a second-grader Rygg wanted to master cursive writing. When she was a freshman, she said she wanted to learn the basics in high school so she could get through life and work on her career.
Rygg's future plans now include skiing in Norway for a year before going off to the University of Colorado in Boulder to major in engineering. But Rygg, who has a shot at the Olympics, definitely wants to focus on her cross-country skiing career first.
"My last two years have been the most challenging and exciting years of my life," Rygg said. "Traveling all over the country has opened my eyes to what a great place Steamboat is."
Hands is looking forward to attending Arizona State in the fall and enjoying the town of Tempe. She was deemed to have the best smile by her fellow seniors and someday she hopes to take that smile into entertainment law.
When Hands was in the second grade, though, she wanted to be a country girl. She told the Pilot that year that she wanted to learn about horses because they were fun to ride.
Throughout her high school career Hands was involved in student council and was the treasurer of her senior class. She advises future generations to have fun and get involved with the community, but not take everything seriously.
"We've been a positive class and I think people will remember the Class of 2000 because we've given back to the community," Hands said.
When Westphale was a freshman he thought that the Class of 2000 was going to break the trail for future years. Now he doesn't see much of a difference in the Class of 2000 compared to other classes.
"Being the Class of 2000 really isn't any different because when the clock struck midnight on Dec. 31 cars didn't go flying," Westphale said.
As Westphale reflected on his high school years, he said it seems like yesterday that his class was at freshman orientation. When he was in the second grade, Westphale wanted to learn to read better about the Bernstein Bears.
Next year, at CU in Boulder, he will focus on a major in marketing.
"Everything has changed so much," Westphale said. "The more I experience life, the more things change."
Larissa Keever is an intern at the Steamboat Pilot/Steamboat Today.