COLUMBIA — It was a night of firsts at Fr. Tolton Regional Catholic High School.
The school's inaugural graduating class of 18 received its diplomas Friday night.
Tolton, Columbia's first Catholic high school, opened in 2011 with a freshman and a sophomore class, and the 2011 sophomore class were those honored with diplomas and awards at the graduation.
Graduate Orie Hemme said he has felt he was a part of something new at Tolton over his three years at the school, but that this year was when that feeling really began to sink in. He said he came to the school because he felt he had found a mentor in athletic director Chad Masters, and that his time playing football for Tolton was the highlight of his high school career.
Salutatorian Austin Gregory, who also played football for Tolton, said he remembers being a part of the first team to play on the school's new field.
"There were a lot of tears from my mom," he said about that first game.
Mary Cleek, 17, whose brother John was one of the graduating seniors, said she had mixed emotions about the night's ceremony. She's excited for her brother to leave for school at Missouri State University in the fall, but sad for him to go, she said.
Mary, a junior, said she was excited for her own senior year. At Tolton, she said she feels free to "express my faith openly and share values with those around me."
"It's like a big family here," she said.
Gregory said his class had gone through several rehearsals for the night's festivities and the format for graduation night had to be changed multiple times. He said his class established traditions for prom, homecoming, and even lunch time, and those memories will stay with him.
"I can come back in 30 years and say, 'Hey, I started that,'" he said.
Supervising editor is Samuel Hardiman.