NOTE: This article has been modified since its original posting.
On an afternoon last week better suited for shorts and a T-shirt, Brady Wilson wore a long-sleeve white shirt, blue jeans, boots and a cowboy hat. On horseback, kicking up dust in a fenced arena next to his house, the Rock Bridge High School senior practiced a skill he hopes will serve him well in college: calf-roping.
Wilson is bound for the rodeo team at Missouri Valley College in Marshall, with the hope that one day he can work in the sport he loves.
He is one of about 500 seniors who will graduate Saturday from Rock Bridge. Wilson practices every day, and he hopes to do the same at Missouri Valley.
“I want to rope every night,” said Wilson, who plans to major in business management. “I hope there are guys that want to practice as much as I will.”
Wilson has been roping since he was young, and his commitment to the sport has often forced him to make decisions between rodeo and school functions. He quit playing football after his sophomore year and quit wrestling after his junior year to focus more on rodeo. Recently, he contemplated skipping his senior prom and graduation ceremonies so he could participate in rodeos, saying missed rodeos might mean missed wins.
“People did finally persuade me to go to graduation, but it was a really difficult decision,” Wilson admitted. “I’ll just try to wait and rope really good at finals.”
While Wilson will stay in the state, classmate Liz Dozier has plans to leave the lower 48. Dozier will attend the University of Hawaii at Hilo, where she hopes to study oceanography and glass blowing. Dozier sees the drastic change of location as a way to see life differently.
“I want a cultural experience, but it’s going to be weird to be the minority there,” said Dozier, who is of French and Irish descent.
Dozier said her parents ultimately couldn’t deny her the opportunity to study in Hawaii. Her father studied for a summer in Spain and later joined the Peace Corps, working in Guatemala.
While Dozier is headed far from home next fall, Lucas Tomicki has become used to living far from the place he called home. Tomicki moved to Columbia two years ago after being raised in Poland. Next fall, Tomicki, who just became a permanent resident, will head to Seton Hall in New Jersey to study finance.
Tomicki will be one of the speakers at the Rock Bridge commencement Saturday. Dressed in a suit and shined shoes on a recent afternoon for his job at a Columbia computer company, he looked the part of a business professional.
“I want to be retired in 10 years,” Tomicki said, “and I want to make $300 million before I’m 30.”