HAYDEN -- Hayden High School's Class of 2007 already is well on its way to financial success.
The 32 seniors who accepted a diploma at Sunday's graduation ceremony also accepted a total of more than $224,000 in scholarships, a number that athletic director and longtime industrial arts teacher Kevin Kleckler called "phenomenal." The colorful and festive graduation, held in a packed gymnasium at the high school, also featured addresses from class valedictorian Rebecca Rosendale, salutatorian Kathryn Koehler and former Hayden business teacher Kipp Rillos.
The talent of Hayden's 2007 graduates became most apparent as school counselors Danica Moss and Michelle Henderson read a lengthy list of impressive scholarships and awards.
"This gives me chills," an emotional Moss said as she announced a $68,700 Daniels Fund Scholarship for Jessica Martin. The scholarship will provide Martin with four years of fully funded tuition and expenses for higher education, as well as a new laptop computer.
Martin won the scholarship in a rigorous statewide competition.
"We've never had a Hayden student even make it to the finals of this competition," Moss said.
Other graduates awarded notable scholarships Sunday include Angela Geis, who received a Colorado Masonic scholarship potentially worth $28,000, in addition to more than $2,000 in other awards; Tyler Manzanares, who received more than $12,000 through numerous awards; Rosendale, who received $48,000 from the Regis University Board of Trustees; and Jennifer Epp and David Gullett, who each received $22,000 from the University of Wyoming.
"We've never seen anything like this," Kleckler said of the students' success. "It's phenomenal, spectacular. It's got to be a record. Congratulations to them."
Manzanares credited the school's counselors for helping him complete his many successful scholarship applications. Manzanares said he plans to attend Northeastern Colorado Junior College in Sterling this fall to study diesel mechanics.
Teacher Kipp Rillos, who left Hayden High School in the middle of the past academic year to take a job in South Routt County, said it was an honor to watch the Class of 2007 mature.
"As freshmen, I remember how small and shy you were -- more children than young men and women," Rillos told the Hayden students. "I've watched you grow and change ... to become the men and women I see before me today."
But the graduating men and women had a few childlike moments left in them Sunday, as they boisterously bounced beach balls and balloons to each other throughout the ceremony.
Rosendale dodged a flying beach ball on the way to the podium for her valedictory address.
"Failure isn't fatal," Rosendale said to her classmates. "Never stop learning, and never stop being curious."
As salutatorian, Koehler spoke fondly of memories from growing up in Hayden, such as accidentally setting off fire alarms, friends suddenly changing their hair color or clothing style and "hours upon hours of chilling at Kum & Go."
"This is a huge milestone in our lives -- we did it," Koehler said of graduation. "I want everyone to focus on all the good times we've had."
Rillos, a former class sponsor for the 32 seniors, received a standing ovation from the students after his address.
"You have truly been an entertaining cast of characters, but I have also found you to be a class with character," Rillos said. "Not everything you've learned here is reflected in your GPA or your SAT scores, but (rather) in the spark of your eye and the strength of your convictions ... You have what you need now to move forward and build on the foundation that you've laid here."