Camryn Holloman, the William Chrisman High School student senate president and secretary for the National Honor Society, had dreamed of walking across the stage at Community of Christ Auditorium to receive her diploma in front of her family and friends.
But the senior track standout was going to miss the Saturday graduation ceremony because she was going to be representing Chrisman – along with fellow senior track standouts Tony Hilton and David Toese – at the Class 5 Missouri State High School Track and Field Championships in Columbia.
That’s when Chrisman activities director Greg McGhee stepped in to create an even more special event for the three senior Bears.
“I talked to (our principal) Mike Becker and asked if the three kids could get their diplomas during the Friday rehearsal at the auditorium, and he was all for it,” McGhee said.
The youngsters wanted to receive their diplomas from Independence School District Superintendent Dale Herl, whose son is also a senior at Chrisman, so McGhee made a phone call.
“I called Dr. Herl and he was excited to be a part of their special ceremony,” McGhee said. “So all three seniors were able to walk across the stage, receive their diploma from Dr. Herl with their families there and all the other students from our high school. It was really was pretty cool.”
Herl was thrilled to take part in the pre-graduation, graduation ceremony.
“I was so honored that Camryn, David and Tony asked me to present their diplomas to them,” Herl said. “I’ve watched them develop as athletes, students and individuals for many years. They are special student-athletes that make the Independence School District proud. It meant more to me than they can imagine.”
The three seniors were still flying high long after the ceremony as they made the trip to Columbia with coach Tyler Rathke.
“Oh, it was so special,” said Holloman, who will compete in the triple jump. “To be recognized by Dr. Herl with all my classmates there – and to share it with Tony and David – made it amazing. I can’t thank Greg McGhee enough for arranging it. It was amazing.”
Hilton, who played basketball with Herl’s son Dawson, said the superintendent’s presence was one of the best parts of the ceremony.
“McGhee got it done for us, and I know Dr. Herl pretty well because I am such good friends with Dawson, and, man, it was cool to have him there,” said Hilton, who will compete in the long and triple jumps. “But the most special part for me was having my family there because I am the first one to graduate from high school. That is so special for me and all my family. I can’t even begin to thank McGhee enough for doing what he did.”
State wrestling champion David Toese will compete at state track and field in the discus, and he wore a gold medal smile while talking about graduation.
“I have dreamed about graduating for a long time, and that dream came true today thanks to Mr. McGhee. I have worked so hard and love my school and my classmates and friends so much, and today I got my diploma, walked the stage and got photos with my family. It was so amazing.”
Rathke also praised McGhee for his role in the special graduation ceremony.
“I was so frustrated because I didn’t want three of the best kids in our school to feel like they were missing out on graduation,” Rathke said. “Had state been a two-day event (it was condensed to one day because of the tornado that hit the original site in Jefferson City) we would have already been in Jefferson City and not been able to do this.
“But because of the change, and the meet being on Saturday, Greg called Dr. Herl and their parents and gave them a moment they will never forget.”