I don't have a cap and gown, but today I feel like I'm graduating.
The Moffat County High School Class of 2006 is the first class I've covered from its freshman to senior year. This is the first class I've watched grow from boys and girls to young men and women.
Through a combination of my work at the paper and Young Life, I've built friendships with some of these guys and gals.
I may have a tough time taking pictures today because of how much I want to sit and watch my friends graduate.
One of my first experiences with this class was probably a freshman football story I wrote my first fall in Craig.
That's when coach Gary Torgerson told me that freshman Derek Duran was a special athlete and that he was the future of Moffat County athletics.
Four years later, Derek has been a major part of the sports section. He was awarded the "Dude" Dent Award as the top male student-athlete in the class.
It's rare that an athlete could have gone to college in all three sports in which they participated. Derek could have done just that.
The football coaches joked with me that maybe I liked Derek too much after a Speak Up comment alleged that I was obsessed with a female volleyball player because her picture was constantly in the paper.
Athletes who work hard and make plays tend to be in the camera lens more. For that reason, Derek was my most photographed subject the last four years.
When I think of this class, I think of the unfortunate injuries that they helped each other through. I've never seen so much compassion from an entire class for one member as I've seen expressed for Zach Haddan.
A rare disease Zach developed after a leg injury his sophomore year led to a long and painful recovery that is still not over. Zach still smiles through it all,
and from my observations, part of that is because of the support his family and classmates have given him.
Cortney Grandbouche may be one of the least fortunate athletes I've covered. Her sophomore year she came into cross country in good enough shape to be a top-20 runner in the state. A foot injury ended her season prematurely.
Her junior year was just like her sophomore year in cross country.
This year she decided not to run cross country so she would be healthy for basketball. Then, during winter break, she suffered another season-ending injury.
Add in another injury from track and Cortney suffered four season-ending injuries in four years.
One of my favorite pictures this year was of Cortney and her fellow seniors holding the regional title trophy. She earned that privilege by working hard before the basketball injury.
There are a lot of side stories about this class I never wrote about that add to its collective character.
I'm appreciative of what the Class of 2006 has done because its members helped make my job enjoyable.
The Craig Daily Press is one of only two daily newspapers in the state that covers just one high school. If the Bulldogs didn't do great things, my job wouldn't have been as easy. You can only cover so many fishing and bowling tournaments.
But, what I'm the most appreciative of is that at almost every game and with almost every team, members of this class were welcoming and thankful I was there.
Even if I spelled Alyssa Macomber's name with a 'y' after the 'a' in Macomber, or that I never wrote the big feature on Wacie Laabs that we talked about, or even after my failed attempt to bring a new cheer to the school at last year's homecoming, I always felt welcome.
At times, I felt like part of the team.
Although I'll be in street clothes at today's graduation, that is why I'll feel like I'm walking across the stage with the class of 2006.