COLUMBIA — Two cakes greeted students, faculty and family with a simple, delicious message: "Congrats CIS class of 2014."
Columbia Independent School, a private school of about 350 students, celebrated the graduation of eight seniors Thursday at the Columbia Performing Arts Center.
The graduates, many of whom have been at the school since pre-K, will fan out across the country. Although their life after graduation will scatter them, the seniors spent their last few moments before graduating huddled together backstage.
As they were nervously laughing and cracking jokes before the ceremony, they reflected on their time at Columbia Independent and their future away from it. KelLeigh Bryant won't be going that far. She said she will attend Northwest Missouri State University, where she will major in speech development and pathology.
One of the things she liked best about her time at Columbia Independent was that it allowed her to pursue a variety of activities and opportunities.
"I did sports, academic team, things that would have been really competitive at public schools," Bryant said.
Stefanie Micatka, who will attend Tulane University in New Orleans to study biochemistry, agreed with her classmate.
"CIS gave you exposure to everything," she said. An example of this was how the school allowed her to nurture an interest in photography through working on the school yearbook.
Cody Maly said he will attend a postgraduate program at Choate Rosemary Hall, a private preparatory boarding school in Wallingford, Conn., where he will wrestle and study business. He said the best part about Columbia Independent was the individual attention he received from teachers.
Nathaniel Briner, who will attend MU next year to take advantage of its new documentary journalism program, appreciated the small class sizes at Columbia Independent because it helped him develop his interests.
One theme many of the graduates returned to during the evening was how Columbia Independent prepared them for college and life afterward.
"CIS offered a great environment to grow up in," said Elizabeth Burch-Hudson, who will attend the University of Southern California in the fall. "It really helped me connect with other humans. It took the learning off the page and made it real."
Supervising editor Landon Woodroof.