In his commencement address, teacher Bill Oliver advised the 2004 graduates of Dayton High School: "Be an individual. Be unique. Stand out. Make noise. Make people notice."
But senior Mark Scott, 19, listened to the speech from the sidelines, barred from the ceremony by two Lyon County Sheriff's deputies. He was not allowed to join his classmates because he wore a black-and-orange wig under his cap and a foam finger on his right hand.
"I don't want to be just part of the crowd," he explained. "This is my day and I want to make in memorable."
Superintendent Nat Lommori sent a letter home to seniors and their parents earlier this year telling them that graduates would not be allowed to decorate their caps and gowns, as had become a tradition.
He pointed to some decorations in past years that had been viewed as offensive by school officials and guests.
Ten students attended the May 19 school board meeting, urging trustees to change their minds. However, the policy remained intact.
A handful of students protested by donning altered caps - one with a light bulb that lit up and another with a giant cap - before Thursday evening's commencement exercises.
They returned to the traditional dress when school officials warned they would not be able to walk in the ceremony.
Only Scott held out.
"I want to be different," he said. "It's not worth it to be the same as everybody else."
And he knows about being different.
Scott wasn't sure he would graduate. Learning disabilities made school difficult and he was held back a grade.
But in recent years, he has made great achievements.
"I learned how to read this year," Scott said. "I think that's important. I learned to love math and I learned how to subtract and multiply fractions. Stuff like that."
Despite chants from classmates demanding, "Let Mark walk," he was banned from joining them.
Other alterations were allowed.
About half a dozen girls wore Hawaiian leis, at least two wore slippers with shredded silver-and-maroon material, and another boy pinned medals to his gown.
Lommori supported the decision to exclude Scott.
"If you don't draw the line and enforce it, you'll always be dealing with it," he said. "He had the opportunity to walk if he'd just taken off what he had on."
Scott's aunt, Colleen Janes, disagreed.
"I think the school is setting a far worse precedent by not having someone walk in his own graduation who worked so hard to get here," she said. "But I'm proud of him."
Other family members and friends had reason to be proud of their students as well.
The 124 graduates received $975,000 in scholarships and 11 were recognized among the state's top students as Nevada Scholars.
In his salutatory speech, Miguel Lozada remembered his father, who passed away four years ago.
"I have not forgotten the person he wanted me to become," he said.
Valedictorian Stacy Shamblin recognized her sister, Crystal, who is serving in the military.
"She showed me what it takes to achieve great things," Shamblin said. "I would not be where I am in my life without her. I love her with all my heart."
At the conclusion of the ceremony, Principal Teri White told the graduates, "Today you are embarking on an adventure which will mark who you will become."
Scott was pleased with the first steps into his new adventure, which includes plans to serve a full-time mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"I learned to stand up for my beliefs," he said. "That will help me on my mission."
Contact Teri Vance at email@example.com or at 881-1272.