Moffat County High School seniors had dreamed of the day when they received their diplomas but Saturday graduation day came too soon for some.
"Some days, we thought this day would never come, but now that it's here it seems like it is too soon," senior Katie Telfer said to open the commencement ceremony. "It feels like just yesterday we were freshman, and now we have the challenge of entering the real world."
Laura Duran, who shared the welcoming speech with Telfer, said that the Class of 2002, which numbered 157, would bear the responsibility of preventing another tragedy like the attacks of Sept. 11.
"The future is ours, and 9/11 can never happen again," she said. "We are the future leaders of tomorrow and it will be up to us to keep our world safe."
The graduating seniors have much to strive for, and much to strive with, the commencement speaker, Marcus Houston, advised them.
"You have to step forward with leadership," he said. "How many of you have attended an event when a speaker proclaims that those in a room are 'the leaders of tomorrow.' I used to wonder how far away is that tomorrow? Is it next Saturday, the coming June or several years down the road? Leadership is not rite of passage into adulthood. It must have the urgency of now. There is no beginning date nor expiration date to leadership. Now is the time to become a partner in the vision of leadership."
Houston is a running back at the University of Colorado, where he is majoring in business management with an emphasis in international business. Houston has been featured in Sports Illustrated, Reader' Digest and on ESPN. He has spoken before the Dutch Foreign Ministry and in Ghana, West Africa, as well as founding the non-profit organization Just Say No, which seeks to teach youth strategies for academic, athletic and social success.
Houston advised the students to handle their lives as "the CEO of the business of you."
"Give yourself short- and long-term goals," Houston said. "Your teachers and family and other mentors can give you guidance, as the board of directors helps the CEO run a company. There must be no gap between your image and your character you are obligated to inspect the quality of your product and develop a reputation for honesty and integrity.
"Ask yourself whether or not you are ready to be the CEO of your life. You must be a kind, caring and ethical person before you move forward, because there is no magic formula that will help you be who you need to be as you weave into society."
The thrill of achieving athletic goals pales in comparison to the value of helping achieve humane goals goals that need to be achieved by the leaders of the future, Houston said.
"I have the opportunity to play in front of 50,000 fans on certain Saturdays, yet I have found that investing in the human condition humbles any athletic achievements," he said. "An athlete that wins the Super Bowl or World Series is no more challenged after the game than to say 'I'm going to Disney World.' Leadership will bring much greater challenges.
"As leaders, you will have to ask 'What can I do to help? It is up to you because a stealth bomber, no matter how complex, cannot shelter a battered family. A smart bomb is not smart enough to deal with a disadvantaged child. Leadership may ask that of you."
Houston warned the students against the Us and Them mentality, a "dangerous formula that has stained many generations in the past," and one that leaves new leaders the task of "building bridges" within their communities and throughout the nation.
"You are now graduating from high school, and you will be searching for you own identity," Houston said. "In some ways that will be a lifelong process.
"Always ask the question 'Who am I?' As you answer that question, as you define who you are, leave plenty of room for dignity. As leaders, you will have your values challenged, your integrity questioned and your faith tested, but there is no greater victory than coming through a struggle with your honor and integrity intact."
At the ceremony, Telfer and Randy Runyan were honored as the Outstanding Seniors for the class of 2002.
Eric Boutwell, Laura Duran, Ashleigh Gregg, Grant Hudish, Joseph Jacobs, Miranda Kipe, Thad McCollum, Maegan Mosher, Stephen Parker, Chris Rollins, Matthew Rubley, Runyan, Amber Sanchez, Lindsey Scott, Tyler Swaney, Telfer, Gabriela Torres and Beth White where recognized as Honor Graduates.
This recognition was given to the top ten percent of the class, those who had a GPA of 3.74 or higher.