Some traditional graduation caps were exchanged for welding helmets and firefighter headgear at the Helena College University of Montana graduation Saturday. 

Many of those who did opt for caps gussied theirs with emblems denoting their majors such as scrubs and stethoscopes for nursing. 

Holly Wendt took it a step further when she took to the podium and donned a bright red cape. 

"My sons -- they think everyone is a superhero," explained Wendt, who was the student speaker chosen by her classmates. "In their eyes, everyone is just a costume change away from unveiling their super powers."

Her two sons' adoration of all things superhero have inspired Wendt to see the magical potential in everyday moments and ventures. 

"It seems like nothing but so does Clark Kent before he steps into a phone booth," she told her 228 fellow graduates. 

Wendt, an applied science graduate, said she didn't know she was a hero when she started at Helena College. Her desire to be a role model for her sons made her overcome her fears and strive for more. 

Then, she found a whole community of other superheroes at the school, she said.  

Of those recognized Saturday, 10 graduated with high honors having maintained a perfect 4.0 grade point average. Another 123 of them achieved honor status by having a 3.5 or higher grad point average. The ceremony also recognized graduates receiving their high school diploma from the Access to Success program.

"Always remember to put on your cape," Wendt told the crowd at the packed Exhibition Hall at the Lewis and Clark County Fairgrounds.  

Sarah Calhoun, founder of Red Ants Pants, served as the featured speaker at the event. She has nearly two decades of leadership experience in both the nonprofit and small business sectors, working in the outdoor education industry before starting her work wear for women company in 2006.

She told the students she toured the school earlier this spring and was impressed by what she saw.

"Thank you all for the hard work that got you here," she said. 

Calhoun wrapped up her advice under the theme of pickup trucks. 

"I have five points to make about trucks and your future," she told the graduates. 

The first is work. 

"Trucks are designed for work and so are you," she said. "Now the real work begins." 

The second is drive. 

The key is to keep moving even through roadblocks of deep snow and mud. These challenges are part of the journey. This takes patience and problem solving, she said. 

"Now is your time to drive forward," Calhoun said. 

The third is bed. 

Allow time for rest. She said people should perform routine maintenance on themselves just as they do to their rigs.  

The fourth aspect is pride. 

Graduates should revel in their work the same as they revere their trucks. Be the best firefighter, nurse or welder you can be, she said. 

"Always be proud of your work," Calhoun said. "You are the foundation of this nation, truly." 

Last, and perhaps the most enjoyable, is tailgate.

The tailgate is known as the location to party but it can also be used as place to reflect on the road traveled. 

"Don't forget to look back," she added.  

 
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