COLUMBIA — Bursts of confetti shot out from beneath the robes of the Rock Bridge High School seniors as they graduated at Mizzou Arena Saturday evening.
"Tonight we are all worthy of the title of Rock Bridge graduates," Rock Bridge Principal Mark Maus said. He began the commencement ceremony by recognizing the graduating class' school spirit.
The ceremony was special not only to the seniors and their families, but also to Maus because it was his first graduating class as principal.
The commencement continued with musical performances by 10 senior vocalists and speeches by Ryan Leon Taylor and Warren Szewczyk, who were chosen by their peers to speak at the ceremony. Taylor and Szewczyk spoke about their love for the school and the importance of hard work.
"We will fall, stumble and disappoint ourselves, but we must embrace failure," Taylor said. "What matters is that you never stop trying."
The speeches were followed by senior Kyle Pudenz playing "Clocks" by Coldplay on an electric violin, receiving a standing ovation from the seniors.
After honoring a record-high nine valedictorians, Rock Bridge's largest graduation class of 578 students received its diplomas and congratulated one another in a mass of green robes.
Kelsey Kinderknecht, one of the valedictorians, said she attributes her best high school memories to her friends and teachers.
"The relationships I have built there have been really important to me," Kinderknecht said. "I know I will use my experiences to build more relationships in college."
Another graduate, Marco DeLaRosa, said he credits the freedom the students have at Rock Bridge to the great relationships between the students and the teachers. He said he is going to miss high school and is planning to study chemical engineering at MU in the fall.
"All the teachers were really accommodating to the learning environment and not in a strict classroom setting," DeLaRosa said. "It was a comfortable environment like a second home, but I'm excited about the future."