Growing up and attending school in a small town has plenty of advantages -- just ask Hayden High School's graduating seniors.
"It makes it easy to get through the day when you see familiar faces all the time," senior Ryan Bell said.
The close-knit nature of the senior class and high school faculty will be one of Bell's lasting memories of his four years at the school.
Principal Nick Schafer will take similar memories of the smallest graduating class -- 23 students -- he has had as the school leader.
"What I've seen of this group is that they've always been an extremely close-knit group," Schafer said. "They're one of our smaller classes, and they're so tight. They are all very amenable to helping each other. It's real neat to see."
The class of 2004, consisting of 11 boys and 12 girls, will graduate Thursday at a ceremony at the high school.
A cyber-school student also is graduating.
Graduation ceremonies were scheduled for Saturday but were postponed because of state track and field competition.
For some seniors, high school already has become a memory. Classes ended Friday.
Chelsea Smith, for one, is ready to move on to the next phase of her life.
"My main focus is to travel out of the country for a while," the senior said. "I feel like I need a break."
She plans to attend college, eventually.
"I'll for sure go," she said. "I'm just burned out on school right now,"
Trevor Gann said he will "hang around" Hayden for a while and maybe do some traveling.
"I'm pretty excited," Gann said. "The last four years have been a lot of fun. I'm going to miss it."
The students will be missed, too, Schafer said.
"You always hate to see them leave, but if we do our job right then they'll be ready to hit the real world," Schafer said.
Bell is excited for the real world, which in the immediate future means working for his dad and attending a year of school at Colorado Mountain College in Steamboat Springs.
But like most of his classmates, Bell's next two weeks will be focused on reminiscing about good times.
"It's been a hell of a ride," he said.
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