COLUMBIA — Rock Bridge High School said farewell to a group of seniors whose achievements this year included three perfect ACT scores, 12 district championships and six state titles.
Five-hundred and sixty eager Rock Bridge students received their diplomas at graduation Saturday at Mizzou Arena as proud supporters looked on.
The ceremony began with a welcome from Rock Bridge principal Mark Maus, who said the class of 2012 was “talented, unique and colorful."
He said how proud he was of the students for getting involved in the community, from working Breakfast with Santa to volunteering at the True/False Film Fest.
Two graduating seniors, Alex Burnam and Carmen Boessen, followed Maus' speech.
"It’s a battlefield out there," Burnam said as he began his speech. "Next year the world will hit you with everything it's got.” But despite this daunting opening line, the rest of his speech was reassuring and motivating.
“Class of 2012, you’ve got an edge that puts you ahead of the competition: a Rock Bridge education,” Burnam said.
Although their education is important, nothing could replace persistence and hard work, Burnam said.
“Doors do not open themselves up in this world. You will never achieve anything unless you go forth and pour your soul into achieving it,” he said.
Burnam's inspirational speech was followed by a speech written in rhyme. Boessen attended the past three Rock Bridge graduations and said she wanted her speech to be something different.
A recurring theme in Boessen’s speech was time and how quickly it passes.
“Seniors tried to warn us how fast that time flew, but all we could say was that summer is far overdue. They shook their heads and are now far gone, but looking back, that warning was spot on,” Boessen said.
Once Boessen's speech ended and the presentation of the Class of 2012 began, Maus asked the audience to hold their applause until every graduate’s name has been called. However, the audience members could not contain themselves and with every name read, at least a few cheered and cried out.
Although 560 received their diplomas Saturday, 581 Rock Bridge students graduated this year. Some of them graduated early, and others were not able to attend the ceremony.
"There's a real maturity with this class that I haven't seen in a long time," Rock Bridge counselor Melissa Melahn said.
Boessen, who will be attending the University of Arkansas in the fall, says she has no regrets.
"All the stress was worth it, and I really think I milked everything from high school that I could," she said.