It could be said that life's a beach for the 479 seniors who graduated Saturday on the football field of Carson High School.
Not because of the flip-flops many of them wore, but because of the colored beach balls they tossed into the air for minutes on end soon after parading into the warm sunny morning.
It led Carson High School Principal Fred Perdomo to quip: "I'm going to assume this is the beach party you requested."
Later, between John Akerley and Sarah Johnston's valedictorian speeches, the balls went back up into the air, large ones this time, as well as a child-size inflatable raft and a swimming inner tube.
"We're on fire, class of 2005, and let's keep it burning hot," urged valedictorian Kathryn Rogers.
For the class of 2005, it could also be said that life was a story of miracles, at least for graduating senior Josh Hayes. Three of his sisters and his girlfriend sat to the right side of the field munching Doritos and chatting about the 17-year-old Saturday morning.
"My brother just had major brain surgery," said Amanda Hayes. "We didn't think he was going to make it. It was a miracle when he woke up."
In her hand, she held a bouquet of blue, red, and yellow balloons and a mylar Tweetie Bird in a cap and gown with a 2005 diploma.
"He's nervous," she said. "He couldn't sleep last night. When I see him later today, I'm going to hug him and I'll probably start to cry. This is a big step for my brother."
Nearby others drank Starbucks coffee, applied suntan lotion, put up umbrellas to protect them from the sun and stayed cool with McFlurry's.
The day began in the gym with a 9 a.m. class photo in the bleachers. Culinary teacher Penny Reynolds reminded seniors to keep their tassels on the left side of their cap. Best friends Johnny Kim, 18, Austin Hunsaker, 17, and Brian Elder, 18, came in moments before the class picture. They wedged into the front row with other latecomers.
"It was the traffic," Elder explained.
The graduating senior plans to get an apartment with Hunsaker this summer in Reno and both will attend Truckee Meadows Community College this fall. Benjamin Knight, 18, who stood toward the front of the procession line in the gym, plans to attend Western Nevada Community College this fall and then become a cop on the SWAT team in San Diego.
"I'm proud of being here," he said. "I worked full-time at Safeway. But I'm also anxious. I just want to get this over with so I can pursue something else."
Around his neck hung a medal from the LINK crew, an upperclassmen club that does goal-setting and team-building activities throughout the year with underclassmen.
"I'm sad, because I could've done more stuff in high school," he said. "But even with regrets about the past you have to focus on the future."
Christina Goulart, 18, was one of the few graduating seniors to decorate her cap.
"It says my nickname Gou and Class of 2005," she said, bending her head over.
While she decorated her cap in blue, members of the school's honor society were designated by blue sashes on their gowns. Those with a 3.5 GPA throughout high school wore a gold cord over their gowns, those with at least four academic letters wore a silver cord and those in the vo-tech program wore a red cord.
"As you can see, we have many many high achievers in the class of 2005," Perdomo said. "In fact, over 45 percent of our graduates are receiving the Millennium Scholarship."
And more than $2 million in scholarships went to the graduating seniors. Also at commencement, salutatorian Milan delVecchio spoke, as did valedictorians Rogers, Akerley, Johnston and Kevin Reeder, who quoted Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his speech.
"Brothers and sisters, we are free at last," he said to his classmates. "Free at last."
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.