Their futures uncertain, the Glendale High School Class of 2010 embraced the unknown Friday with confidence in a series of speeches at their graduation ceremony on Moyse Field.
The rush of more than 4,500 family members, friends and educators that eventually lined the stands soon gave way to moments of reflection from a handful of students. Kellie Rae Torio flashed medals secured through hours of community service and academic achievement, hard work that she said had come to epitomize her class.
As the graduates prepared to enter college and the depressed job market, Principal Deb Rinder said she was confident they were prepared to meet the challenges head-on.
"You did it," Rinder told a student blowing kisses to her three sisters. "We'll miss you."
Torio, standing alongside a group of friends outside the high school auditorium, said the goodbye was bittersweet. While she expected to join some friends at Glendale Community College in the fall, others had their sights set on four-year colleges spanning much of the West Coast.
Two airplanes flew overhead with messages reading: "Touch the sky; the sky is your limit" and "Reach for the stars. You deserve this. We love you, Alexandra."
A rendition of "Pomp and Circumstance," which came amid cheers and laughter, blared as Robert Torres skipped the stairs into the auditorium on his way to the playing field.
Torres, like many of his classmates, said he planned to brave the topsy-turvy job market rather than enroll at a local college. He described his feelings leading up to the graduation as a wash of "nervousness and relief."
"It's exciting, sure," said Torres, 17, who had yet to begin the job hunt. "You get to get out in the real world."
Students, capped in red and black, began doing the wave, a school tradition.
Tiko Nersisyan and Mike Hartounian, both graduating seniors, said their classmates consistently showed the kind of hard-charging attitudes needed to succeed at the next level.
Hartounian said he planned to study law after getting off to a rough start in high school.
"Many of us didn't get a fast start," he said. "But we showed persistence."
Jose Segovia joined a large crowd that waved and cheered as their graduates walked by. One woman leaned over a large fence, placing a lei over her daughter's head.
"I'm proud of her," said Segovia, adding that his graduating sister was enrolled in culinary classes for the fall. "She put in a lot of work."
As did relatives and friends of Claudia Rodriguez and Lizzy Carter, who stood at the foot of the auditorium reflecting on the year. One was preparing to study cosmetology, while the other was ready to join the ranks of freshmen at UCLA.
"I'm just glad they came out of this on top," Carter said.