STANFORD — A rainbow over the Stuart Underwood Auditorium greeted the 68 newest graduates of Fort Logan High School Thursday, as they stepped out of school and into the rest of their lives.
An hour and a half earlier, twin graduating seniors Candi and Mandy Miracle were waiting with excited smiles on their faces in the line of all-but-graduated students.
"I'm really nervous," Mandy said as last-moment instructions began echoing down the noisy hallway. "I wasn't nervous until about 10 minutes ago, and now it's like one minute away."
If any nervousness remained for the graduating class as Pomp and Circumstance began to play, it didn't show as the students filed gracefully into the auditorium.
Principal Scott Montgomery welcomed the packed house to Fort Logan's 2013 graduation and explained he had already practiced his introductory remarks in front of the graduating class so he could be sure he wouldn't get too emotional on stage.
"I know they have many plans and I know they have already faced many obstacles," Montgomery said. But the seniors have taken on those obstacles, and overcome every one of them, he added.
The keynote speaker, Colmon Eldridge III, serves as executive assistant to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear.
Eldridge landed the keynote position after a group of Fort Logan students heard him speak at Eastern Kentucky University and asked to have him speak to their school.
Eldridge told the graduating class he still remembers meeting many students from Fort Logan High School at EKU that day, and how they reminded him of himself in high school.
"It was not easy to get here. But look at you — you're here," he told the graduates. "… The journey to this moment was not easy; it was not handed to you."
Eldridge urged the students to continue working hard and serve as leaders in their communities, whether or not they have important titles in front of their names.
"Leadership is fighting the good fight no matter how many obstacles stand in your way," he said. "Because fighting the good fight is the right thing."
Eldridge told some his own rags-to-riches story, sharing how he had grown up without much in the way of wealth, but still became a high-ranking member of the governor's cabinet by 26.
Even though he's now considered successful, Eldridge said he still likes to shop on the cheap at places like Save-A-Lot and Goodwill, and he still works longer hours than he has to.
"Dream big and never let what is stand in the way of what can be," he said, quoting his grandmother. "… Make sure you take this moment to make your community better, to make your Commonwealth better, to make your nation better."
Class speaker Brandy Ridgeway told her fellow graduates how she had always been shy growing up, but had succeeded despite that shyness.
"This diploma is your key," she said. "But it's up to you to open the door."
Class speaker Jeffery Wardlow said he was already looking forward to meeting classmates again later in life and hearing about all their successes.
After the diplomas were handed out and the 2013 class was presented, Fort Logan Instructional Assistant Judy Denham was waiting at the front of the auditorium, giving nearly every graduating senior a hug as they headed out.
Denham said she has worked at Fort Logan for 11 years and every graduating class has been important to her.