Steamboat Springs Everything about Heritage Christian School's graduation ceremony is personal.
The five seniors who made up the school's Class of 2013 were able to walk into the audience Sunday after receiving his or her diploma and embrace family as the entire audience watched and applauded.
There was no pressure to get through a long list of names.
As a slideshow of baby pictures and old class photos ran on a projector screen, the five seniors talked to one another while laughing and expanding on the memories as if they were viewing a family photo album.
And after the video ended, keynote speaker Brent Remala was able to give a personal shout out to each of the graduates.
The Euzoa Bible Church youth pastor told the crowd that he's accused graduate Stephen Hathaway of being a nerd, but he fully expects to be borrowing money from him one day.
He said Shealie Jenkins, the school's valedictorian, is kind and compassionate and SMART, in all caps.
He praised Kieran Buccino for having a “beautiful heart.”
Salutatorian Jay Lanning, Remala said, has an unwavering integrity.
And he said Jane Robey, who spent the last year juggling an acting and modeling career in Los Angeles with her course work, already is a movie star.
“We're all jealous,” Remala said.
There were hugs and tears, guest musicians and a cake able to accommodate the portraits of the graduates in its icing.
Robey said she woke up Sunday and it all seemed to be a blur, an almost unreal experience.
“I think because of Heritage Christian School, I've grown up to be the unique person I am today,” she said. “I really appreciate all the support I've gotten.”
The ability to overcome challenges was a common theme for this class, and this school.
Administrator Dave Entwistle kicked off the ceremony by proudly proclaiming the graduation wouldn't be the small school's last.
A little more than a month ago, a budget shortfall put the high school's future in jeopardy.
But after a successful fundraising effort, the school, and the personal graduation ceremonies, will continue.
As the seniors chatted with their families and friends at the end of the reception, Entwistle said he's excited to see what this group of seniors is able to accomplish.
“As I see them off, I consider them friends, and I'm so proud of what they've done,” he said.
The seniors have the following post-graduation plans:
Kieran Buccino: Kieran plans to move to California to prepare to become a youth pastor.
Stephen Hathaway: Stephen plans to study computer science at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. He hopes the degree will allow him to work in the computer technology industry.
“I feel really excited for the future, and I'm grateful the school has prepared me for it,” Hathaway said after the ceremony.
Shealie Jenkins: Shealie will attend Notre Dame University, where she has earned a scholarship covering the tuition. She will study political science and hopes to someday do social justice work for the United Nations.
Jay Lanning: Jay plans to attend Colorado Mountain College and major in mechanical engineering. He hopes to then become a police officer.
Jane Robey: Jane is weighing whether to take a year off from academics to continue her modeling and acting career, or to study at Westmont College.
To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com