Following the arrival of the graduates, history teacher Crystal Charles offered the first remarks. Charles initially congratulated the students for reaching freedom from "13 years of knowledge prison." Their initial achievement would be the freedom to go to the bathroom when they chose.
Charles framed her remarks around the career of Howard Moskowitz, a Harvard graduate and scientist who was hired by industries to analyze interest in products. Pepsi-Cola hired him to figure out what percentage of the new sweetener Aspartame would satisfy the public. Tests showed there was no magic amount that satisfied everyone, but Pepsi chose a 10 percent mix as a middle of the road solution.
Moskowitz went on the work for Prego, the spaghetti sauce company, to find out what level of thickness the public preferred. Again he found no consensus. Prego chose to listen, and came out with plain, spicy and chunky. Today, there are 36 types of sauce on the market.
In the same way, Charles said the world loves unique, even as the beloved late teacher and coach Doug Weatherly had individual nicknames for all his students.
"He'd want you to celebrate your uniqueness, just as the world also loves sweet, spicy and tomatoey," Charles said.
Valedictorian Beth Parrigon looked back on her memories of Pierce City classes and talked about the good, the bad and the "ugh" times.
Parrigon's good memories included the boys dressing up as girls, the girls putting makeup on the boys and "impossible minutes to win it" sports games. Bad times for her included summer conditioning for basketball when she hated running.
"Even though there might be bad times, I know that through those bad times people grow and learn from them," Parrigon said.
The "ugh" times came at the end of the school year, when Parrigon did not want to get up in the morning, when schedules were overwhelming. Somehow, she said, she and her classmates got through it.
Parrigon turned to the quote "Live a life that leaves a legacy" as a summary. The quote reminded her of the mark Weatherly left on the community. She encouraged her classmates to leave a positive legacy on the lives of others.
Salutatorian Nao Vang recalled the length of the school journey and the difficulties they had faced. The class had made it to graduation with the "endless support and love" provided by friends, family, teachers and the community.
Vang recalled that growing up, she and her fellow students always wanted to be on the next level: to reach fifth grade when in elementary, to be older and able to drive, then to be adults. They hurried from one milestone to another.
One story that stuck with Vang was the nursery tale of the "itsy, bitsy spider," who despite being washed down the drainspout, immediately began the climb up again.
"This nursery rhyme is like our high school life," Vang said. "Each year, we encounter different obstacles, but with courage and hope, we can keep on fighting until the sun comes out and soon, we will reach our destination."
Principal Steve Garner introduced the top 10 of the class and had them come forward for a round of applause. Garner also identified the honors that each of the graduates had received.
The ceremony included a break for students to distribute flowers to special loved ones and friends in the audience. Singer Jami Larimore sang "Help You Find Your Wings" with its concluding line, "It's not living if you don't reach for the sky."
The graduates came to the stage to receive their diplomas from the Board of Education. A video slide show of the graduates, showing both very young and contemporary photos, followed.
Superintendent Russ Moreland offered his class challenge near the end of the ceremonies, again recalling both the students and the community had worked its way through a lot of adversity.
"Don't run from challenges," Moreland said. "Embrace them. Set goals that will make you happy. Don't let somebody else achieve your goal, because they outworked you."
The ceremony concluded with the students singing their school song, then, at the direction of the class president, tossed their mortar board hats into the air with a cheer.
The students retired to the lawn outside the gym where they greeted family and posed for photos.