The Independence High School graduation ceremony got emotional in the V. Sue Cleveland High School auditorium May 22, as some students shared past struggles and their current achievements.

Independence, an alternative learning environment to regular public school, had a small number of grads this year, but the stories shared by the graduate speaker and some award winners were that much mightier.

“Once an Eagle, always an Eagle,” said Adrian Aragon.

While he confessed he is a rather shy person in general, he added that he didn’t hesitate to talk to Mayor Gregg Hull about a pizza party that never happened.

Independence won when the high schools were asked to compete in a “go green” effort to clean up Rio Rancho. The winner was promised a party.

Several students won awards for especially outstanding success stories.

Teachers got emotional when presenting their designated winners. Some were brought to tears or even laughter.

At the end of the ceremony, the Independence High School tradition is to ring a bell for graduates, which the crowd cheered loudly for.