When Glen Adair took over as principal of Carson High School in 1992, this year's graduating seniors were in first grade.
On Saturday, he joined them in bidding farewell to the school. Named this year's Principal of the Year by the National Association of Student Councils, Adair officiated his final graduation with conflicting emotions.
"I know I should be really happy," he said. "And I am. But I'm sad to be leaving this part of my life that's been such a big part of my life."
Students understood his ambivalence, as they prepared to walk out of the gymnasium one last time.
"I'm excited and nervous," said Nicole McCroy, 19. "I'm finally done with high school, but I don't know what's in the future."
Adair was presented with a class ring, a diploma and cap and gown during the ceremony. Students gave him a standing ovation.
In turn, he recognized their accomplishments. Listing several of the class' achievements in academics, sports and other extra-curricular activities, he invited them to stand and be recognized.
He announced that the 457 graduates earned just short of $2 million in scholarships.
"We couldn't be prouder of any of you," Adair said.
He included Paul Scott, a 68-year-old former U.S. Marine. Scott received his diploma through a new law which allows veterans who left school early for war to graduate.
""I'm very emotional," Scott said, tearing up in his blue cap and gown before the ceremony. "I feel flattered they would let me go through this."
There were light moments during the ceremony as well. Just before the student speakers began, an eruption of beach balls exploded above the graduates - among the balls were two plus-sized blow-up dolls in bikinis.
"I can see we're going to have a little celebration first," Adair told guests. "I can't see making a big thing out of a little bit of fun. This would be a good picture, folks, if you want to get it."
After a few minutes, the balloons and dolls were confiscated.
Salutatorian Sarah Ragsdale, 18, said the school will be different without Adair.
"I love Mr. Adair," she said. "He cares so much for the students. He's going to be missed."
However, students also believe the school will continue to succeed when Vice Principal Fred Perdomo takes over as principal next year.
"We have such big faith in Mr. Perdomo," said Rikki Zafranovich, 18. "He's really going to do a good job."
Contact Teri Vance at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 881-1272.