Commencement speaker Bryan Fiese had a simple message Saturday for the 29 seniors graduating from Soroco High School in Oak Creek.
"Life is going to be a ride that bucks you," Fiese said. "But if you can remember your vision, you'll be successful."
Hundreds filled the school auditorium for the ceremony, shaking rain from coats and munching on graduation cake as they filed in.
Salutatorian Hallie Shiner seemed to speak for much of the class when she began her address by saying, "Wow, we're finally here."
The two valedictorians, Nicole Baxter and Laura Meade, addressed the class, as well. Baxter and Meade have carried 4.0 GPAs since the fourth grade.
Baxter commended the Class of 2004 for its convictions, unique personality and fun-loving nature, and she urged the students to continue to be "passionate and irrepressible," to not take life too seriously and to be "your own person."
Pointing to animated discussions over such things as politics, prom decorations and what beverages the vending machines should hold, Baxter didn't think the class would have difficulty fulfilling her charge.
"If you want to know how to be successful, just look at these graduates," she said.
Meade thanked everyone who had supported and influenced the class.
"Everyone we form a relationship with leaves their fingerprints on us, and we take little bits and pieces of them with us wherever we go," Meade said.
Fiese told class members to step out of their comfort zones each day and do something that challenges them. Fiese gave a personal example -- he tried bull riding last year. He learned not to ride a bull while wearing dress shoes; he also learned the importance of trying new things and the power of visualizing success.
After Fiese's address, the eagerly awaited moment arrived -- the presentation of diplomas.
Graduates walked across the stage receiving handshakes, hugs and the all-important rolled parchment along the way.
Along with each student's name, the presenter read his or her future plans. Some like Baxter are leaving state to attend college. Baxter is heading to Salt Lake City to study nursing. Others are staying in Colorado and attending universities such as Colorado State, Fort Lewis College and the University of Colorado.
Jack Means,18, plans to study physical therapy at the University of Northern Colorado and said he's not at all nervous about embarking on college life.
"I'm excited to get out of the house and on my own," Means said.
Others plan on staying in Oak Creek. "It feels really good to be done," said 18-year-old Mara Moore, who wants to open a day care in Oak Creek.
Also during the ceremony, students who had earned scholarships were recognized. One name heard frequently during the presentation was Tucker Louthan. The 18-year-old received 10 scholarships for everything from the 4-H Club to soil conservation.
Wearing a black cowboy hat with a white tassel attached, Tucker said that he's excited to graduate, but that it's a bit overwhelming.
"I mean, I'm grown-up now," Louthan said. "I don't think that's hit me yet."
With diplomas distributed, Wade Ager presented the class, saying the class motto, "The future is not in the hands of fate, but in ours."
Tassels were turned, and the air filled with Silly String as exultant students gleefully sprayed each other. As the students walked arm in arm back down the auditorium, chords of the class song played: "It's something unpredictable, but in the end, it's right. I hope you had the time of your life."