The graduates marched down a center aisle of the gym to "Pomp and Circumstance March #1" played on a recording by the Pierce City High School band. The classmates gathered on chairs in front of crowd surrounding them.
Valedictorian Kristen Nelson expressed thanks for the lessons from textbooks and life that helped her and her classmates advance. She recalled song jingles from middle school and teachers who left a lasting impression.
"Rather than fitting in we learned to stand out in our own ways," Nelson said, "and many of us figured out that big things weren't really that big, and in the end, we were happier."
Nelson recalled her classmates wearing costumes, movie night with friends and studying five minutes before a test. Such memories reflected seizing the day. The future presented both new opportunities to shine and different challenges to meet.
Nelson called on her classmates to develop an appetite for overcoming obstacles to reach a later reward. She asserted life is a challenge and an adventure, which she awaited with anticipation as a doorway to new memories.
Nelson closed with German poet Rilke's advice from "Letters to a Young Poet."
"Have patience with everything unresolved in your heart. Try to love the questions themselves," the poet writes. "It is a question of experiencing everything. At present you need to live the question."
Salutatorian Rebecca Younker recalled high school as harrowing in the first days. As the years passed her classmates learned the ropes, and as juniors, they achieved some status, leading to the hectic pace of senior year.
"We've learned to treat others fairly and expect to be treated the same," Younker said. "We've learned to be gracious winners as well as sportsmanlike losers. Success had to be earned from hard work, not given to us. We've owned the school and left our impressions not only on the senior benches, but on the hears and minds of teachers and classmates we have met throughout the years."
The senior year, Younker said, had been an exercise in survival, dealing with days when nothing could serve as a pick-me-up and other days when nothing could pull a person down.
"And then there were the days that could only be explained by saying, 'That's high school.' Congratulations, Class of 2010. We made it," Younker concluded.
Guest speaker Jim Case, introduced as the class's favorite substitute teacher, focused on life lessons. Case recalled the quotation credited to Mark Twain: "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years."
Case told the graduates they had a foundation on which to build a life, but like a homeowner who wanted a bigger house, there was more that could be done to build an even better house.
"Look in the mirror," Case said, "and say, 'Have I done my best job today? Did I help anyone or hurt anyone?' If we've done our job, the answer should be there."
The program included a song by guest Jami Larimore. Graduates presented flowers to special members of the audience, and a slide show was also shown with both baby pictures and current photos of each of the 71 graduates.
As a challenge to the class, Superintendent Russ Moreland urged the graduates to try new things and not be afraid to make mistakes.
"Keep close to your family, your faith and your friends," Moreland concluded.