COLUMBIA — Proud parents in the audience broke into thunderous applause and happy cheers, as a sea of purple robes flooded the floor of Mizzou Arena at Hickman High School's graduation Saturday morning.
The commencement began with the 28-person senior ensemble, A Cappella Singers, singing their harmonious rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner" led by Choir Director Matt Felts.
The ceremony continued with commencement addresses by seniors Rodney Dixon and Zophia McDougal, who talked about class memories and lasting friendships.
“I felt good about (my speech) actually, I thought I did actually a really good job,” McDougal said.
She will be attending Kansas City Art Institute and majoring in fine arts with a focus in photography and graphic design.
“I’m excited. I’ll be two hours away, so I’ll be close but far and it’ll be good,” she said. "It’s a good city to be in."
Following the speeches, the students received their diplomas amid cheers from family members and friends. After returning to their seats, the graduates sang the cheer of the school mascot, a Kewpie, removed their caps and threw them ceremoniously into the air.
“I had a really good three years at Hickman, a lot of friends, a lot of activities and stuff going on. So it is always a bit bittersweet leaving that behind but certainly an exciting future ahead of me,” Andy Atkins, one of the graduates, said. “I’m kind of excited to take the next step and certainly ready to, you know, expand into the world.”
Atkins, who will be attending Princeton University, received Hickman’s highest honor recognition.
“I’m pretty thrilled actually, very excited. I’ve worked very hard, and it’s nice to, you know, be rewarded at the end,” said Atkins. Although he is not sure what he will major in, he is considering studying history, economics and foreign policy with a foreign language minor.
Valedictorian Eric Young, who will attend Vanderbilt University, was the 18th Hickman student to receive the U.S. Presidential Scholar honor, the highest honor for a graduating high school senior to receive in the nation.
“Plans for the summer — not too much. My parents expect me to get a job but I’m pretty sure I can push it off and not worry about it,” Young said jokingly. “This is my last summer in Columbia so I’ve got to spend it all with people.”