The Columbia Public School District has reason to celebrate.
On Saturday, more than 1,100 graduates from Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools marched across the stage to accept their diplomas in separate two-hour ceremonies at Mizzou Arena with family and friends looking on.
The class of 2007 boasted record numbers graduating from both Douglass and Rock Bridge high schools.
More than 550 Kewpies donned bright purple robes early Saturday afternoon for what would be their last day as high school students. A series of performances by the Hickman choir’s senior ensemble and four speeches by graduating seniors followed a 20-minute rendition of “Pomp and Circumstance” by the school band.
“Life is so much bigger than us,” said Lauren Fichter, Hickman graduate and future Missouri State University student. “Don’t try to figure out who you should be but who you already are.”
Hickman Principal Michael Jeffers and Columbia school board members recognized the guest alumni, faculty representatives and the graduating class’s families for helping prepare this year’s seniors for the future that, as student speaker Alyssa Monroe noted, is “ever changing.”
Rock Bridge boasted eight National Merit finalists, two Missouri 100 Scholars and the female Presidential Scholar from the state among their 558 graduates, Rock Bridge Principal Andy Kohl said.
“This is a unique group of young people,” Kohl said. “They are full of outstanding talent and abilities.”
The arena’s Jumbotron, usually reserved for basketball replays, projected video of the graduates as they listened to fellow classmates speak. Thousands of parents and relatives high in the stands stared intently for a glimpse of their graduating senior in the sea of emerald green.
“Join me in thanking the family, friends and teachers who made us what we are today,” said student speaker Clay Minchew during his address.
Cheers were heard from each small section of family and friends as school board members Donald Ludwig and Michelle Gadbois handed out the diplomas.
As the class of 2007 moves into the coming years, they will, as Rock Bridge speaker Nuzhat Chowdhury said, have the opportunity to develop their own futures, building on what they have learned during their time in Columbia. She compared life’s path to the process of writing a book.
“Everyone who has helped us along the way believes we are ready to start a new novel,” Chowdhury said.