After all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the opening of their graduation ceremony Monday night, Andover High School student Dean Lieberman used a touch of humor to put things into perspective for his classmates at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell.

“It’s been an honor to be a part of this community and this atmosphere,” said Lieberman, after the introductory music and salute to the flag. “That’s pretty much why we’re here tonight. To celebrate our awesomeness.”

A total of 445 graduating members of the Class of 2007 were feeling pretty awesome by the end of the ceremony. With diplomas in hand they celebrated with family, friends and faculty outside the arena before heading their respective ways. Most would meet again later that night at the annual school-sponsored party, Senior Safari.

“I just can’t believe it’s over,” said Mary Dawson, 18, who will attend Skidmore College in the fall. “It just hit me, seeing all my friends and teachers. I’m so proud of all my friends.”

Mike Somma, one of seven graduates planning to attend St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., said he felt “ecstatic” and was eager begin his college career.

“I can’t wait to get to the next step,” he said. “We did it.”

Students were recognized for their hard work in the classroom by Andover High Principal Peter Anderson, who during the ceremony addressed the class from the arena floor.

“Enjoy the moment,” said Anderson, giving the seniors a chance to stand and wave to loved ones in the crowd. “Savor the moment.”

Saying the gifts of grit, perseverance and passion had been instilled in them through their high school educations, Anderson urged the Class of 2007 to take the road less traveled. Through enough trial and error, he said, all the graduates would be able to find their true calling in life.

“Don’t be alarmed, at the age of 18, if you don’t know what your passion is,” said Anderson. “Failure is nothing more than figuring out how to be successful.”

Andover Superintendent Claudia Bach, anticipating the “seismic event” ahead of many of the graduates as they move away from home for the first time, said the opportunity should be taken as a chance for personal growth.

“Off to college, off to the military, off to jobs,” said Bach. “It is, for you, a wonderful and important transition.”

Bach said the next chapters in the students’ lives would allow them to leave behind all the expectations of parents, teachers, friends and administrators. By learning more about themselves in the coming years, the many lessons learned in high school will serve them well, she said.

“You have moved already beyond the walls of AHS,” Bach said. “There’s a lot of work out there to be done in the world. I believe that you are the sort of people who will do that work.”

Graduate Laurel Dezieck, in her class essay, recalled some of the challenges the class faced together, in particular when faculty member and coach Peter Arthur died last year.

But the adversity, in the long run, would benefit the graduates, she said.

“Because of these challenges, we are stronger and wiser than four years ago,” Dezieck said. “Each of us are going somewhere different, but we’re all going somewhere.”

Three students were selected as recipients of the Last Senior Standing Award: Jonathan Lee, Merav Levkowitz and Allison Hyde. Given a check for $1,000, the students must pick a cause to support with the money, and are also required to come back to the school in 2011 to explain their choice.

“It’s one of those things that you have to think about over the years,” said Lee, who will study engineering at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in the fall. “Something like this, you can do something with it.”

The Class of 2007’s gift to the school will provide recycling bins for all Andover High athletic fields. It will also donate money for a new electronic sign announcing events at the school. Anderson said the sign, which will have a three-line LED display, should be up within the next six months.

Though many of the graduates will have moved on by then, the most prominent sign after Monday night’s ceremony came in the form of smiles.

“It’s been a great four years,” said 18-year-old Alison Burns, who will study psychology at Northern Essex Community College next year. “We got through it. I’m really happy right now.”

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