Mountain Pointe High School's 2007 graduation ceremony Thursday night had a carnival feel to it, with excited families grasping balloons and a snow cone kiosk dispensing cold treats to fight the warm night. As well it should have: 567 seniors took their final walk across the school's campus to receive the piece of paper they had worked towards for four years. "I really never took that many pictures, and I'm not going to let this opportunity pass me by," said salutatorian Alan Hoang, addressing the sea of maroon and gold caps and gowns while snapping pics with his cell phone. "I'll only see this many people doing the same thing at a graduation, in a hospital or in a cult." The notion of not forgetting the high school experience while barreling towards the future was a repeated theme for the evening, and David Moakley, the second of three salutatorians to speak before valedictorian Kristina Gerboth gave the commencement speech, made similar overtures. "If you're taking this experience for granted, don't," Moakley said. The evening was warm, exciting and shot through with air horns, loud cheers and frequent applause for a deserving senior class. Mountain Pointe's Class of 2007 had impressive numbers to carry with them as they left the school's football field and entered the post-high-school world. Scholarships awarded to Mountain Pointe seniors this year included two military academy appointments, a National Merit Scholarship, four Flinn Scholarship finalists, one Presidential Scholar nominee, 42 Advanced Placement honors and two National Advanced Placement Scholars. There were also numerous awards for art, athletics, music, film and culinary arts. The number of graduating seniors this year was much less than the school's largest-ever class of 786 in 1997, but the emotions associated were as large as any year. "It's been fun to watch her grab her future," said Joel Wakefield, watching his eldest daughter Lauren graduate that night. "As a parent you try to shape them as much as you can, but you start to lose control over time." Just prior to the event, 18-year-old Alexandra Elston summed up her high school experience the way most people remember the four-year odyssey. "It went crazy fast," she laughed Thursday's graduation ceremony had one non-nostalgic somber note: a remembrance of two students whose death's tragically book-ended the Class of 2007's final year. Senior Megan Lavery died in August, and Chauncey "C.J." Ploog died in a car accident earlier this month. Both had an in memoriam in the event's flier. --Jason Ludwig can be reached at (480) 898-7916 or jludwig@aztrib.com.

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