Steamboat Springs The Hayden High School class of 2001, whose 33 members said they are as close as a family, celebrated graduation Thursday night during an emotional ceremony.
During the nearly two-hour event in the school's gymnasium, there were laughs, high-fives and tears.
The highlight of the evening was a 20-minute slide show that depicted the 33 graduating seniors during their infant, elementary, middle and high school years.
"It is kind of sad," said graduate Matt Miner. "I grew up with a lot of these guys, and I won't see them as much.
"I guess that hasn't hit me yet."
During Daleena Babcock's salutatorian address, she reminisced about the memories she shared with classmates she described as family.
"In September of 1989, 37 of us started kindergarten," Babcock said. "Now, 33 of us are graduating."
Another highlight of the evening was the amount of scholarships the graduating class was awarded.
From colleges and universities, students were awarded $46,300. From 28 private scholarships, students were awarded another $40,250.
"This is truly an amazing class," said Hayden High School Principal Nick Schafer.
Not forgotten during the ceremony was a fallen classmate, Jerod Faucett. The 17-year-old succumbed to leukemia last September.
During the ceremony, a chair was left empty for Faucett amid the graduating class, whose members were dressed in robes of the school's colors. The girls wore orange and the boys wore black.
Faucett's family left its mark on the graduating class. Faucett's younger sister Grace, who is a sophomore, presented $500 Jerod Faucett Memorial Scholarships to 22 graduating seniors.
The family gave the scholarships to all graduating seniors who plan to further their educations. The scholarship money totaled $11,000.
"We give these scholarships through the community's generosity and support of our family" said Jerod's father, Daniel. "We love you, and we care for you. We thank you for standing by our family through thick and thin."
The senior class chose history teacher Don Toy and music teacher Bill Grimes to address the class during the ceremony.
Toy gave a brief speech and then introduced Grimes, who is retiring after 32 years with the school district.
Grimes was given standing ovations before and after his address.
His departing message to the graduating class was simple.
"Good Luck. Good fortune and goodbye," Grimes said.