There were a dozen roses for Ashley Fultz, a bouquet of turquoise, purple and Mylar balloons for Douglas Hitchcock, and a rather unique gift for graduate Krystal Nardone from Uncle Frank.
He walked into the Carson City Community Center with it on his arm about 10 minutes before Pioneer High School's commencement ceremony began.
"Here, sign it," he said, handing a foot-and-a-half-long, multi-colored, black-capped, 2005-diploma-bearing stuffed caterpillar to a relative. Grandpa Penn had already written "Proud of You." Someone else grabbed the caterpillar and went to work.
"I picked it up at the store," Uncle Frank - Frank Smith - said of the caterpillar. "I thought it was cool. It comes with a little pen and we can all sign it. I've already had some of her friends sign it. She can keep it and down the road have something to look back on."
Twenty-six students graduated Tuesday night from Pioneer High School, the school district's alternative-education program that opened in 1998-99.
Male graduates entered in green robes and the girls proceeded in purple, the two colors of Pioneer High. Cameras flashed, videotape rolled and graduates and their families waved, grinned and whooped.
Fultz' mom, dad, uncle, aunt, boyfriend, friends and relatives sat up front and cheered as she walked down.
"I'm nervous but I'm excited," said Fultz, 18, who is considering a future in phlebotomy, the drawing of blood. "The road here was a little bumpy, but I got through it."
The $400 Pioneer High Staff scholarship recipient was announced as Winter Woodward. The Charles D. Keller Memorial Scholarship went to valedictorian Sarah Farthing.
Keller, principal of Pioneer High School, died in March just months after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.
"I saw the kids at Pioneer really rally around the Keller family and rally around each other," said Carson City School District Superintendent Mary Pierczynski during commencement. "It's that kind of compassion these students have. I'm confident when they go out in the world, they will have this type of compassion the rest of their lives."
Jeannie Fillmore, Kurtis Kaamasee, Roger McDonald and Winter Woodward were recognized with awards by the Washoe Tribe of California/Nevada and Farthing, Nathan Neben and Kayla Olson were acknowledged as the school's Millennium Scholarship recipients. Neben was the school's salutatorian.
"I salute you," Interim Principal Pat Beckwith said. "I am proud to be your principal. Congratulations on a job well done."
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.