EVART — The 70 members of Evart High School’s Class of 2011 each took a stroll across the stage Sunday to collect a diploma signifying the culmination of 12-years of study.

They also collected the applause of family, friends and neighbors who ‘escorted’ them through their school years - from kindergarten and through the final academic push in Twelfth Grade.

For each of the successful graduates, it’s been a long journey.

But each also knows the journey has also really just begun.

To the strains of Pomp and Circumstance, the blue-robed classmates entered the EHS gymnasium taking their seats before being greeted by Evart School District superintendent Howard Hyde.

After introducing the Evart district Board of Education officers and trustees, Hyde called on the Class of 2011 salutatorian Courtney Hooker to offer her class and gathered friends a few words.

Hooker compared the journey through the school years to the stages of learned reading. She noted that with each stage in reading growth books got a little harder and more complex. So too in school when the class, as kids, moved through the grades.

“We create close bonds through tears, smiles, and laughter,” she said “Don’t forget old memories while developing new memories.

“Make each day a new chapter in your book,” she advised her classmates.

Hooker thanked those closest to her and the class for their support throughout the years.

She also encouraged her classmates to enjoy the journey ahead of them as they continued in whatever they decided to do in life.

A talented choir entertained the crowded gymnasium with their rendition of “Bless the Broken Road” before the keynote address speaker was introduced by Hyde.

Keynote address speaker Andy Phelps is a graduate of Evart High School from the Class of 2000.

In 1998, he and three of his schoolmates were in a devastating accident on their way home from the Career Center. Two were killed. Phelps was paralyzed from the neck down.

“Life doesn’t always turn out as you plan,” he told the graduating class in his inspirational address that offered them a view of his life since the accident.

Phelps spoke about having purpose, meaning, and a sense of community.

“Life moves on whether we want it to or not,” he pointed out telling the class, “You have to remember, your life isn’t just about you.”

Phelps told spoke of being forced to make choices that would bring him fulfillment despite the adversities he was facing.

“You can’t be happy being lazy,” he said. “You have to find what it is you are truly passionate about and do it.”

Phelps encouraged the Class of 2011 to set high expectations for themselves.

Following Phelps’ address, Class of 2011 valedictorian Courtney VanGarderen was called on to offer remarks.

She began by thanking all of those who helped each and every one of the seniors to reach the stage they were at this time.

She then took her classmates on a short trip down memory lane, recalling the many years they had been classmates and friends in Evart schools.

She had special praise for parents, teachers and friends who supported the students over the years.

She challenged her classmates to both remember the good times they had experienced together at Evart High School but also to create amazing futures for themselves.

With that, EHS principal Al Kullman presented the Class of 2011 and called on each in turn to take the stage and received their long-awaited diplomas.

Each of the graduates also had a little something for Kullman.

Following the proclamation, the class was formally introduced to the audience as graduates with all the rights and honors due them.

Chelsea Martin, class president, led her classmates in the traditional tassel switching ceremony and the graduates filed out to meet with proud parents and grandparents, excited siblings and friends, and head off for a swing through the many Open Houses that were held throughout the area.

And now ...

The next stage in their lives.