COLUMBIA — 355 students became Columbia College graduates this weekend in the school's first in-person commencement ceremony in 16 months.
Each graduate received six tickets while they and their pods of supporters were masked and socially distant during two ceremonies at Mizzou Arena.
Among the graduates was Tyus Monroe, the first graduate of the Grow Our Own partnership between Columbia Public Schools, Columbia College, Stephens College, and MU.
The program gives a full-ride to CPS graduates to earn an education degree with a job secured for them in the district after they graduate college.
Monroe said she was excited to celebrate with her family Saturday before teaching CPS students full-time and helping students overcome adversity.
"It meant so much to me to be able to have the people in my life who put it all on the line for me to get here. My mom made a lot of sacrifices for me to get here...The people who's shoulders I stand on were all with me and they got to see me walk. It's a great feeling," she said.
The initiative targets minority students who want to become teachers in an effort to diversify the school’s faculty.
"Representation's great but you also need people who are well-versed and experienced and committed to [student's] lifelong learning and their lifelong educational journey so that's I wanted to become a teacher," Monroe said.
Other graduates included some entering or continuing in the criminal justice field and 50 nurses preparing to fill holes in an industry with a major shortage.
Six students graduated with a bachelor of science with distinction, with research focuses ranging from the effects of COVID-19 on developing countries in Asia and the effects of flooding and wastewater runoff on soil makeup in Columbia's own Eagle Bluffs conservation.