• A student walks at Cherry Creek High School's graduation July 30.
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After the unorthodox celebrations where Cherry Creek School District graduates cruised through car parades in their caps and gowns this spring, the students had the chance to experience their proper rite of passage together at in-person graduation ceremonies at the end of July and early August.

“You look fantastic, here, together,” Principal Gwen Hansen-Vigil said at Eaglecrest High School’s July 31 ceremony.

As with any large event in recent months, the coronavirus pandemic served as an undercurrent and a physical backdrop, with Hansen-Vigil nodding to the “unexpected detour” students endured when school closed this spring. Students at the district’s graduations sat in rows spaced apart to comply with social distancing guidelines.

Eaglecrest graduating senior Rian Nelson spoke about the challenges the pandemic brought upon the class of 2020 but also looked at the perennial hurdles graduates face on their way to adulthood.

“We have a lot of negative days ahead of us, and they will be as important, if not more important, than the positive ones,” Nelson said on stage.

The lesson she wanted to impart: “Never think you have all the answers — there is no answer key in life,” Nelson said.

At Grandview High School’s graduation July 27, the student body president and vice president referenced their class’s senior quote: “Strengthened by hardship; grounded by unity.”

At Eaglecrest’s celebration, graduating senior Mia Molina delivered a performance of “Hero” by Mariah Carey in a smooth, controlled voice. In a year of uncertainty, she confidently conveyed lyrics about overcoming “when you feel like hope is gone.”

“A hero lies in you,” Molina sang.