KINGMAN - Balloons, bouquets and stuffed bulldogs filled the arms of family and friends attending the Kingman High School Class of 2013 graduation ceremony Thursday at the school's stadium.
As the audience waited, staff arranged 373 eager seniors on bleachers inside the school before lining them up to make their entrance. High school counselor Michelle McCarthy, who directed students into the room, said they practiced that morning for the event, receiving thorough instruction on every aspect of the upcoming ceremony.
"It's my first year of counseling here because I'm new to Kingman," said McCarthy, who moved here in October from Portland and counseled about 100 seniors this year. "It's been a really great year working with these seniors. I've seen a lot of growth in them. It was a challenge to get them on track and make sure they had all their credits for graduation, but all of them got it done."
Senior Jessie Polley, 18, stood outside the high school, trying to calm her nerves before entering the room and lining up with her classmates. Polley, who attended KHS for almost three years, said she plans to attend Mohave Community College in Kingman and Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, majoring in journalism. Polley said she loves to write and wants to be a news reporter.
"I'm feeling mixed emotions tonight as I get ready to graduate," she said. "I'm happy, sad and anxious. It's a very emotional time for me, and it's the most important day in my life because it's the day that I become an adult. There were some struggles for me, but I made it."
Soon, cheers rose from the crowd as the seniors walked onto the mountain-rimmed field, clutching their blue caps and gowns to keep them in place as the wind whipped them. After a series of speeches, Principal Patrick Carey took the stage and thanked the first graduating class under his administration for working hard and persevering.
As a full moon rose over the stadium, seniors received their diplomas, and then turned their tassels to signify their graduation. A fireworks display lit up the night sky to commemorate their achievement.