University of Missouri High School Celebrates Graduating Class at a Meaningful Ceremony at the Historic Missouri Theatre

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Group photo of Mizzou Academy Graduating Students

At the 24th Mizzou Academy graduation ceremony on June 3, 2023, Greg Soden, a Speech and Social Studies teacher, looked out over the podium at the students in attendance with a smile. He remarked, “It’s a bit strange and beautiful to meet your students in-person for the first time at their graduation. That is how it works at Mizzou Academy, and I couldn’t be more excited to be with each of you today.” 

A Global Lab School 

As a global and blended lab school within the University of Missouri’s College of Education and Human Development, students study with Mizzou Academy from around the world. In fact, this year the University of Missouri High School celebrated their largest and most geographically diverse graduating class to date—880+ students from 19 countries. 

Many of the students are honored at graduation ceremonies at Mizzou Academy partner schools around the world. The students in attendance at our onsite graduation ceremony, travel to Missouri to celebrate in downtown Columbia where they can tour our beautiful campus and meet their instructors. 

The onsite ceremony is always an intimate event. The ceremony tends to draw self-paced students who progressed through their coursework online. From specific learning needs, especially giftedness, to training schedules for sports, to work, family, and medical needs, there are as many reasons a student might choose an online high school as there are high school students. 

A Remarkable Class

The class of 2023 is an accomplished group, with great achievements in academics, sports, service, and leadership. Some of these special recognitions included Ava Fleury who earned a perfect ACT score at 14 years-old, Lydia Menossi who earned numerous AQHA world and congress championship titles in western equestrian events, and Samantha Coyle who completed 100 volunteer hours in her community. 

Alicia Bixby, Mizzou Academy’s school counselor, presented these awards. She hopes that “this year’s graduating class continues to explore, learn, and grow toward their potential.”

Graduating Students celebrate with Truman Tiger.

A Special Ceremony

Before the ceremony started, faculty gathered the excited group of students in the lobby to say how proud they were. Graduates had a few nervous questions  and chuckles. Everyone shared a couple big laughs, and then Johanny Viega Barbosa and Anthony Hernandez queued up the music. Barbosa and Hernandez are graduate students in the Mizzou music program. 

The ceremony continued with the national anthem performed by two of the graduates, Madelyn Pope as vocalist and Ava Fleury as keyboardist. Dr. Kathryn Fishman Weaver, Executive Director of Mizzou Academy, remarked that there was “something magical about the performance. Not only was it stunning, but it was also striking that these two young people met through their online classes and are now performing music together in person.”

Fishman-Weaver went on to welcome the graduates, staff, family, and friends. On behalf of the high school’s staff, she shared that they hoped they had equipped graduates with critical thinking, compassion, and creativity. “I have tremendous hope for the world they and their peers will lead.” Through professional remarks and poetry, Fishman-Weaver shared that “the world can be changed by purposeful, everyday acts of generosity, ingenuity, and inclusion.” 

Mizzou Academy student receiving their diploma.

Associate Dean Joi Moore and Dr. Fishman Weaver led the diploma presentation with enthusiastic cheering from the families and crowd. 

The keynote speaker was Mizzou Academy alumna Ms. Kaci Conley. Conley is a graduate of Maryville University, currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Psychology at CUNY School of Professional Studies. She is also a local leader and disability advocate. Conley spoke about the graduation ceremony being a “full circle moment” for her. She had graduated from Mizzou Academy on the exact date six years ago. She now has the perspective of a University of Missouri High School student and alumnus. Conley encouraged graduates “to be confident and know that their education has prepared them to do anything they put their minds to, no matter their future paths.” Her words motivated all in attendance to “keep reading, keep thinking and keep learning.”

Mr. Gregory Soden provided the ceremony’s closing remarks.  Soden had the distinction of traveling the farthest in order to be present at the ceremony—all the way from Buffalo, New York. The distance did not deter him as he shared that it was “a gift and a thrill to cheer on this year’s graduates.” 

Once a Tiger, Always a Tiger

The ceremony ended with a surprise visit from Truman the Tiger, some dancing on stage, and a huge M-I-Z  Z-O-U toss of the motorboards. 

Mizzou Academy students posing for a selfie with Truman Tiger.

Following the formal ceremony, graduates walked together to campus for photos. The group, who had studied online and met in-person for the first time that day, were now friends. Some walked arm-in-arm, and others laughed easily over dress shoes, college plans, and Truman the Tiger. As the day ended, they called for one more selfie together. 

Fishman-Weaver has that picture displayed on her refrigerator at home. “Every time I see it, it makes me smile. They’re a remarkable group, and we are so proud of them. For all they have done and, more importantly, for all they will do, we celebrate the Class of 2023.”