Rock Bridge, Hickman graduate seniors

Sunday, June 6, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 3:07 a.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

Hickman High School


Winning volleyball games. Parking tickets. Sold-out musicals. And, of course, friendships forged in class — and out.

In her speech to the graduating class of Hickman High School, Wen Xi “ShiShi” Wang talked about her Hickman High School memories and her hopes for the future.

“Hickman has been the best experience — it’s so unique and so diverse,” Wang said on Friday as she prepared for the big day. “It’s like our own little world, and it’s representative of so many different viewpoints.”

Wang ended with a good-bye and a few final words: “It’s been a privilege sharing the crowded halls of Hickman with you.”

Along with graduates Eli Peterson and Salama Gallimore, Wang was selected to speak based on auditions in front of a panel of teachers. Before the ceremony, Wang said she felt honored for the opportunity and wanted to have a speech that applied to everyone in the class and embraced Hickman’s diversity.

Hickman graduated 626 seniors on Saturday at the Hearnes Center. With air horns sounding from the crowd and beach balls flying in the air, the seniors waited to receive their diplomas.

Greg Grupe, principal for the senior class, said the class of 2004 has faced challenges and dealt with tragedies.

““We had classmates and friends die, there was September 11th, and we had a teacher die this year,” graduate Adam Hoskins said before the ceremony. “It’s brought us a lot closer, I think. I feel a connection with all these people.”

Grupe said because of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and the Iraq War, there are more students than usual considering joining the armed services.

Whether the graduates are attending a two- or four-year college or joining the armed forces, emotions about their future were running high.

“The feeling of growing up and the feeling of being more independent is so palpable right now — I can feel the change coming,” Wang said.

Hickman grads, as well as seniors from all Columbia high schools, were to converge on the Hearnes Center at 11 Saturday night for the annual all-night party that’s in its 48th year.

Rock Bridge High School


At Rock Bridge High School’s commencement Saturday, Todd Gingrich took his place on the stage in the Hearnes Center next to the two other valedictorians. Few would believe what the poised and attentive National Merit Finalist had been up to during the last weeks of class.

Gingrich and a group of friends built a hovering craft out of plywood, a lawn mower engine, a car radiator fan and a bunch of tarps. They then proceeded to test out their project — inside the school.

“It was our nerdy senior prank,” he said. “We’re sort of curious people, and we built this thing and took it for a spin through the hallways.”

This type of intrigue into the scientific world should serve Gingrich well as he heads to the California Institute of Technology in the fall to study biology.

Rock Bridge graduated 432 seniors, the largest class in the history of the school. This class has also received a large number of honors. Thirteen seniors were chosen as National Merit semifinalists, the largest number from a single high school in the state. Eleven of them became finalists.

The graduates also earned more college scholarships collectively than any other class in Rock Bridge history. About 85 percent of the class will attend two- or four-year institutions in the fall.

Jolyn Sattizahn pulled double duty on stage. In addition to being recognized as a valedictorian, Sattizahn sang “A New World” with three other members of the show choir.

Sattizahn is used to the balancing act. The week of the school musical was also the week of her advanced placement tests, forcing her to study between musical numbers at times. She plans to attend Southwest Missouri State University, adding dance into her schedule of classes to be as involved as possible.

“It’s the best way to go if you can make it all balance,” she said. “I have all this other stuff, but now I’m focused on being valedictorian and making my family proud.”

She, Gingrich and Mackenzie Asel, the third valedictorian, indeed had the opportunity to impress their families as they walked across the stage with the rest of their class, but were already anticipating the future.”I’m looking forward to meeting new people and expanding my horizons,” said Asel, who will attend the University of Notre Dame to major in Spanish.

But, said Anne Case-Halferty as she addressed her class, “You will always be from Rock Bridge, and you will always be a Bruin at heart.”

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