EPPING — Each of the 58 graduates who marched into the Epping High School gymnasium Friday night carried a rose.
The night could not begin until they presented the roses to the family members, friends and others in the audience who were always there to offer support and guidance to the graduates throughout their high school days.
The show of appreciation was followed by hugs, tears and flashing cameras as Epping High School's Class of 2013 bid farewell.
"Together we have created some unforgettable memories," said class salutatorian Kylie Patton, who spoke of the many steps they've taken, the friends they've made and the important decisions they've faced that have molded them over the years.
Valedictorian Megan Illsley recalled the many experiences the graduates have shared, from their days in elementary school when they looked forward to the "Monster Mash" and recess to middle school dances and then winning their first lip syncing competition during sophomore year. As their high school days came to a close, their attention turned to SATs and planning for college.
In his commencement address, senior class adviser Tyler Nekton urged the students to find their passion in life.
"The truth is it doesn't matter what path you take if you have found meaning and purpose in what you do," said Nekton, who was chosen as this year's keynote speaker by the students.
Nekton told how he failed out of his first semester of college, but his parents wouldn't let him quit. They urged him to find a community college and try again. So he did, and discovered that he had a passion for history that led to a career as a teacher.
"I found what I love and I absolutely love what I do," he said.
Nekton encouraged the students to find work that's meaningful.
"If you don't find your first passion, then turn the page. Don't give up," he said.
The Class of 2013 holds a special place in principal Kyle Repucci's heart. He said they were his first sixth-grade class and that he shared many firsts with them.
While writing his speech, Repucci tried to think of a way to repay the graduates for all they had shared with him. He decided to give each graduate a copy of the poem "If" by Rudyard Kipling along with their graduation picture.
The poem was written in 1910 to offer advice to Kipling's son.
"I know the word will be a better place having you in it," Repucci told the graduates.