The wind whipped in wild circles as the sun of adolescence set on more than 400 Douglas High School seniors walking through the rites of graduation on the school's softball field Friday evening.
The class of 2008 tilted their caps against the wind in a gesture symbolic of their future to come: how will Douglas County's best and brightest handle the world which they are being handed, a world rapidly modernizing and growing in population yet haunted by the winds of war, by political, economic and environmental crises?
One thing was made clear by parents though, by school officials and the students themselves: the little corner of the world that is Douglas County raises the best possible hope for mankind.
"Today is the first day of our future," Rachel Anderson told her classmates. "It is the end of a carefree lifestyle as we move into adulthood. Today, we step out of childhood and into new beginnings."
Class valedictorian David Williams was called to the stage and cheered by his peers. Class salutatorian JR Stevens then gave a speech.
"We hold the fate of this country and planet in our hands," Stevens said. "We are the most powerful people in the world because we have independent thought and freedom. Let us overcome the pitfalls and complacency of previous generations. Now is our time."
Douglas math teacher Joe Andrews said the 2008 class was a sentimental class for him. A 2000 graduate himself, he started teaching at the school three years ago and said this was the first class he's seen from start to finish.
"These students have absolutely grown," he said. "I know that they will continue to grow beyond high school."
English teacher Karen Lamb agreed.
"They're an astounding group of seniors," she said. "I have no doubt that they are going to help change this world and make it better."
It was government teacher Randy Green's last graduation. He is retiring after seeing 31 senior classes graduate.
"The greatest people walk through these halls," Green said. "Young people get too much bad publicity, but these students are really capable of going out into the world and making a difference. Today, we are celebrating young people."
Douglas High School registrar Anita Ovard estimated that 42 percent of the graduating class will go on to a four-year college.
Former Douglas quarterback David Laird said he is ready for what life brings him. He is going to Idaho State University to study pharmacology.
"I'm excited," he said.
His classmate Dorothy Sliva is going south to Arizona State University where she plans on majoring in global studies.
"I think I'm going to go into the Peace Corps," she said. Shiloh Webb is staying closer to home. She plans to study photography at Western Nevada College.
"I hope I can take what I've learned and apply it to life," she said.
If any student harbored fear about leaving and entering the world, they didn't show it.
"I just feel I'm ready," said Michael Tague.
Matt Bates added one more factor to the equation.
"I'm also going to have as much fun as possible," he said.