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When asked how to sum up her high school experience on Thursday, Klamath Union High School senior Rachel Moore turned over her red, sequined graduation cap to reveal the saying: “With perseverance, even the snail made it to the ark.”

Moore’s grandmother had told the saying to her at the beginning of the school year, and she found it to be true.

“As long as you stick with it, you’ll make it,” Moore said, sitting with her friends at Veterans Memorial Park before the start of Graduation Sensation’s scholarship award ceremony.

Moore has more than stuck with it, and was one of the recipients of a scholarship at the Fourth Annual Graduation Sensation. She was one of about 450 seniors who showed off school colors down Main Street before they gathering at the park.

In just under 40 minutes, students were awarded a total of $40,600 in scholarships, more than ever in the history of the event.

Anne Hiller Clark, coordinator for Klamath Promise, said the organization’s parade and gathering drew more community attendance than in previous years.

“Every school was represented, which was great,” said Hiller Clark. “I think the word is getting out.”

New this year were scholarships provided by Windermere Real Estate (they also provided gift cards for those entering the workforce), EagleRidge High School, Klamath County Chamber of Commerce Military Affairs Action Team and Friends of ECI & Friends of Graduates.

Among other scholarships awarded were some from Cascade Health Alliance, Holliday Jewelry, Klamath Falls Honda, City of Klamath Falls, Gilchrist School Alumni, Klamath County Board of Commissioners, Oregon Tech and Klamath Community College.

“I think people recognize the value of it to the students,” Hiller Clark added. “This is such a giving community and has always been supportive of students.”

All events are organized by Klamath Promise with an aim to increase the graduation rates in Klamath County.

“We promote success through education from birth to career, and graduation is one of those milestones along that trajectory,” Hiller Clark said.

“Everybody at the schools is doing so many different things to help kids make that milestone,” she added.

Hiller Clark said for some students, barriers are higher to reach the milestone of graduation.

“So much of it is dependent on what’s going on in their lives,” Hiller Clark said.

“My favorite thing about working overall to increase student success ... is seeing them make progress,” she added.

Families celebrated that progress together on Thursday as many lined both sides of Main Street to welcome their soon-to-be graduates as they paraded toward the park.

Rosina Betancourt smiled as she posed for photographs with her son, Alejandro, before the awards ceremony at the park.

“It was the best experience of my life,” Alejandro said, of high school. “I’m going to miss seeing all my friends everyday.”

The youngest of six, Alejandro plans to enter the U.S. Air Force after graduating from Mazama High School in June. He wants to serve as a deputy for the Klamath County Sheriff’s Office.

“This is my hometown,” Alejandro said. “This is my home for sure.”