The Rio Rancho Cyber Academy kicked off graduation season for the Rio Rancho Public School District Friday night.

Nearly three dozen graduates and their friends and family filled the concert hall at Cleveland High School as diplomas were presented.

Salutatorian Olivia Scott evoked Elle Woods from “Legally Blonde” during her address. She said she would have liked to have said, “What, like it’s hard?” when speaking of high school graduation. “But it was, in fact, very hard when our freshman year went from a two-week break to our entire high school career was just lit up,” she said. “Graduation just seemed so much further away. We wanted nothing more than to cross the finish line, and after all the obstacles that were thrown at us, we finally did it.

“Finally, now we can move on into the real world where we find out that life is not just about exams,” Scott added.

She also spoke about the teachers she had at the academy and thanked them for inspiring her and helping her get through as well as ways in which the helped her improve herself. And while she spoke of math class, Scott said while the equations themselves might not be something she uses in life, there are life lessons learned in completing the work: “There are multiple paths that can be used to find the answer, and it might take longer than you think … there’s more than one way to solve a problem.”

“Let’s remember to embrace the lessons we learn both inside and outside the classroom,” Scott said.

“I personally congratulate my fellow classmates on a monumental achievement,” Valedictorian Connor Cunningham said, also noting the impact COVID — and other challenges — had on the class’ high school career. “Despite all this, we managed to get here.”

He also took time to note individual teachers and the impact they made on his path through high school as well as touching on changes in his personal life.

“This is all to say the challenges we face, both shared and especially those unique to us when you need to be individuals, will shape who we are,” Cunningham said. “But despite this, I want everyone, especially my classmates, to remember that everything throughout your life has allowed you to go through, get through, all of the challenges faced.

“The things you’ve experienced … can have a dramatic impact,” he said. “In 10 years’ time, just take a second to look back on this time in your life and remember to try to see how things change, for the better or for the worse.

“In the end, I simply want to wish you all the best of luck,” Cunningham said. “If nothing else, try to live you life without fear of failure and change. Instead embrace it, try new things and learn from the past in order to initiate your future and live you life as you please.”

And, as Scott closed out her speech, she once again invoked Elle Woods: “It is with passion, courage of conviction and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world,” she said, adding her own ending. “Let’s take risks, dream big and never forget that life is too short to take ourselves too seriously.”