For 880 Mesa State College students, Saturday marked the end of one hard journey and the start of another, as they move into an uncertain world with fewer jobs. But the new graduates say they're still hopeful for the future and determined to make it.
It was a day of pomp, circumstance, and a lot of excitement for hundreds of Mesa State students and their families as they celebrated the culmination of four years of hard work.
"It feels great to be finally done," said Scott Hall, a Mesa State grad. "It feels like we finally accomplished something."
"It was awesome," said Maegan Kenagy, a Mesa State grad. "I just accomplished so much -- very awesome."
But even on this bright, sunny day no one could deny there weren't some shadows of doubt cast, thinking about what lies ahead.
"I know we're in a terrible downturn, I said it was the worst recession since the Great Depression, " said Governor Bill Ritter. "But having said that, there's things about it that can be a bit liberating."
As Governor Ritter made his keynote address during the ceremony, he told the graduates how economic downturns test the spirit --
"We know that along the way you're gonna face challenges, face adversity," said Ritter. "And having courage is a really important quality to see it through."
-- But that they ultimately leave people stronger and better off in life when things do turn around.
"For my purposes, we know we're gonna come out of this and these people are all poised to do very well when we do," said Ritter.
Kenagy, who is currently applying to be a teacher, says she knows the road ahead won't be easy.
"It's kind of hard just because it's uncertain of where I may be or where I'm going," said Kenagy.
But she adds not even the recession can kill her hope and drive.
"I'm hopeful in the job prospects and teaching is a really big area, so I think I will be successful wherever I go," said Kenagy.
Other grads like Hall, who is a kinesiology major, say the recession gives them the chance to look forward to a different path on the road to a career.
"The job search is definitely hard but luckily I'll be continuing my education," said Hall. "I'lll be applying to grad school and furthering that education."
But no matter what the future looks like, officials say just getting to Graduation Day is the first big step in making a successful one.
"Higher education is really the way you can change your station in life," said Ritter.
11 News would like to congratulate all 2009 Mesa State College Graduates and wish them the best of luck as they move on into the future.