COLUMBIA, MO (KMIZ)
It's that time year again and students are walking the stages to receive their diplomas. Columbia College held a graduation ceremony Saturday graduating almost 400 students.
Columbia College officials said this year finally felt like a normal graduation for students because unlike the past two years, family and friends sat closely on Saturday and celebrated the accomplishment of their loved ones.
Sam Fleury, Senior Director of Strategic Communications at Columbia College, told ABC 17 News that it was awesome to have everyone together again, shouting and cheering.
"It's been fun to hear the families shout and scream, that's my mom, you know that's my sister. The student-athletes, a lot of their teammates come and cheer for them, like I said being all together and hear those shouts out from the crowd," Fleury said.
Two ceremonies were held on Saturday and the highlight of the first one was the college honoring Marine Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo.
Pichardo was killed by a suicide bomber in Afghanistan back in August and Saturday her mom and sister accepted Pichardo's degree on her behalf. Columbia College has now created a scholarship in Pichardo's honor called Sgt. Johanny Rosario Pichardo Endowed Award.
When ABC 17 News asked students about their futures, they said they are ready to start their career's but know they will face challenges.
"Gaining that experience and transitioning my education into real world practice is really big. I've been working at Boone for over a year so that's going to help a lot," said Mason Gains, a nursing major who graduated on Saturday.
Michael Nash, who is a U.S. Army Master Sergeant that graduated on Saturday says he's ready for the work force.
"I'm looking at transiting out of the military and most of the jobs that I've been seeking out require a Bachelors Degree even though I have 20 years of experience. I think that this will give me many more opportunities," Nash said.
With the increased number of people coming for gradations, it brings more foot traffic into the city and Columbia business owners said they are feeling the impact. ABC 17 News called a few popular Columbia hotels based on their reviews, and they all said they were booked for the weekend due to graduation.
James Kanne, owner of 9th Street Public House, says the crowds are keeping him on his toes. "All bar owners are concerned about graduation weekend because we're talking families coming in, so that's mom, dad, brother, sister, that's three people right there," Kanne said.
William Woods University also had a graduation ceremony Saturday and Mizzou's will begin May 13.