COLUMBIA — From diapers to swimsuits and swimsuits to running shoes, brand new Hickman High School graduates and future MU student-athletes Bianca and Nicole Mello are no strangers to athletics.
Bianca and Nicole Mello, 18, graduated with highest honors, scholarships and opportunities ahead of them. Bianca will run track for MU while pursuing a degree in business. Nicole will run track and cross country while seeking a career in event planning.
"Our family does everything together," said Cesar Mello, the twins' father. "They're following the footsteps."
Cesar Mello is a former MU swim coach and encouraged his daughters to pursue the same sports he did, swimming and running.
"As a dad, I couldn't be happier for them," Cesar Mello said. "But I am sad to see them go. Our family is so close."
The Mello twins graduated in a class of 547 from Hickman at 6 p.m. Thursday at Mizzou Arena. Commencement included speeches from students selected by their classmates.
"We've won this battle," student Lakreisha Ingram said during her speech. She likened high school to a fight, which their graduating class eventually won.
Graduates are moving across the country to pursue diverse futures. The class' two valedictorians, Maya Ramachandran and Adam Suppes, will attend Columbia University and Johns Hopkins University, respectively. Both will study engineering.
Natalie French, 18, another graduate, is traveling to New Mexico to swim for New Mexico State University.
"I don't really know what I want to study," French said. "But I really like art, so maybe I'll do something with that."
Darius Roland, 19, hopes to go on to pursue a part-time or full-time job so he can one day put himself through college. He wants to eventually pursue a career in engineering or movie production.
"Working will be good," Roland said. "It will be good for my family."
Supervising editor is Katie Moritz.