Eighty-eight Tucker County High School students graduated Friday in the school's gym. The room was packed tightly with family, friends and students, a small microcosm of the Tucker County community.
As salutatorian Steven Sponaugle emphasized in his speech, the day marked the beginning of a new stage in their lives.
"Today," Sponaugle said, "we recognize the end of an era, the close of one of the most cherished chapters of our lives today is a day that will transform our world completely."
He encouraged his fellow seniors to think back on their experiences and the people who filled them.
"We've known each other from our very first day of daycare, per-school or even kindergarten. Whether we got along all the time or not, we still had each other, we were one. However, all of that is about to change."
"In a few moments your name will be called and you will begin your stride across this stage. You'll receive your diploma and shake hands with the principal and for one final time we will reform our body as a class. After the announcement is made and we are declared survivors, we will all embark on our own journey through life."
Student Body President Chloe Birch touched on similar themes in her speech. She spoke of the rich experiences Tucker's senior class shared, as well as the new experiences they will face alone. She emphasized the importance of fulfilling one's goals and dreams.
"When we venture out into this world we will make mistakes, but that will be part of our learning process," Birch said. "We need to get out there, achieve our goals and follow through with our dreams. Let's make 2012 end with a bang, let's not procrastinate, let's not be late, it's time for our class to change our fate."
After the last diploma was handed out and its recipient returned to her chair, the students' graduation was officially declared and they were told they could move their tassel.
With a celebratory roar they flung their hats above their heads and suddenly streaks of Silly-String were flying from every direction and noise-makers were adding their shrill cheer to the hubbub.
For the first time since early childhood, Tucker's 2012 seniors were no longer students - they were young men and women with an open horizon of possibilities.