COLUMBIA — Lindy Watson’s family was nervous as it came time for their senior to receive her diploma.
Her mother focused the lens of her camera, while Watson's grandmother carefully checked the graduation program and looked up constantly. Meanwhile, her younger brother was standing and leaning forward, ready to scream and cheer when his sister's name was announced.
Lindy Watson was one of the 555 Hickman High School seniors who received their diplomas during Saturday's graduation ceremony at Mizzou Arena.
During one commencement address, graduate Joy Martin encouraged her classmates to enjoy "this moment of pride and accomplishment."
“Don’t stop believing, Class of 2012," she said to the school's 84th graduating class. Martin ended her speech with the school's song: "Kewpies are on the march, faithful we’ll always be. Purple and gold, we carry to victory. Congratulations!”
As they approached the stage, each graduating senior received a medal, commemorating the school's 116-year history. Columbia High School, Hickman's forerunner, had its first four-year graduating class in 1896.
From their spot in the stands of Mizzou Arena, Lindy Watson's 16 family members — including her parents, brothers, grandparents, aunts, an uncle and cousins — screamed, waved and applauded as she finally walked across the stage.
Lindy Watson's mother, Janna Watson, had mixed feelings about her daughter’s graduation, and she had tears in her eyes as her daughter prepared to receive her diploma. They were "tears of joy and sadness," she said. "My daughter has grown up."
“This is something that we’ve worked for all our life. I am thinking of all the homework, the school events — and this is a culminating moment,” Janna Watson said.
Jane McLaughlin, Lindy Watson's grandmother, came from Bates City with her husband to attend this graduation ceremony.
“I remember when she was first born. She was a tiny little thing, and now she is a young lady," her grandmother said.
Like Lindy Watson, many graduates had family members who traveled to Columbia to see them receive their diplomas.
Mary Emerson's aunt Connie Welch arrived in Columbia last night after 5-hour drive from southern Illinois.
“I am proud her. I am lucky she is my daughter," Marilyn Emerson, Mary Emerson's mother, said. Her daughter will be attending Columbia College in the fall.
Michael Moreau will also be staying in Columbia for college and will study engineering at MU.
“I know that’s something he's always liked, and he is very excited,” Alan Moreau, his father, said.
But not all of the graduating Kewpies will be attending college directly after graduation.
Starting in July, Daija Dean will be living in Brazil for 10 months as a Rotary Youth Exchange student. She will begin taking college classes the following year, when she returns.
Much has changed for Dean since she was a freshman. "It was terrifying at the beginning, but three years flew by so fast," she said.
Hickman graduates have different thoughts about what the future holds.
Nicholas Young, who is going to study mechanics at Linn State Technical College, is excited to finally get out of Columbia after 19 years.
As for college life, "It’s going to be more freedom but way more stress," Young said.
Maggie Moore is not sure about her future will be like, but when she starts taking classes at Central Methodist University in the fall, she will begin a new chapter in her life.
"I think we are gaining more independence as we walk by the stage," she said. "It’s the first time that we step into adult life.”
Moore is a little scared. But she is also excited.
Supervising editor is Elizabeth Brixey.