BUTTE, Mont. -

Butte High seniors donned their caps and gowns as they prepared to walk across the stage Thursday evening, a huge moment in the lives of these 300 students.

"I'm nervous," said Butte High graduate Tabitha Zundel.

Nervous, but excited as they leave high school behind.

"I'm excited that I got out of high school," said graduate Hannah Rook. "A little bit more freedom, getting out into the world. Finally I'm an adult."

Friends and families of the graduates filled the Civic Center to celebrate the class of 2014.

The night was just as big for proud parents who have waited 18 years for this moment. Ken Lane brought gifts for his daughter.

"These flowers, being that they endured growing, like she has, that represents my love for her," Lane explained. "And the balloon is just showing I'm lifting her up."

Pat Kane is beaming with joy for her granddaughter, who graduated as a valedictorian.

"Which makes me very proud," she said. "And I'm happy to be here to share this occasion with her and my family."

Students shook hands and accepted their diplomas, a symbol of taking a step into the real world as part of the journey from adolescence to adulthood.

"I plan on going to Job Corps," said Zundel.

"I want to go to law school," said Rook.