Christina DeJesus watched intently, somewhere between laughter and tears, as her daughter played around for the camera on her graduation eve.
"Indescribable," she said of her feelings as daughter, Tatiana Fletcher, posed with members of her family. "Being proud is an understatement."
Tatiana was one of many seniors who graduated from Fulton High School on Friday evening.
"I plan to go to the University of Missouri in Columbia," she said, adding her studies are leading her to becoming a thorasic (respiratory) surgeon. "I will miss making all the great memories, the goofy moments, the choir."
No valedictorian was appointed for the Class of 2019; rather, the school recognized high-performing students through the cum laude system when they took the stage at Champ Auditorium at Westminster College. Fifteen of this year's seniors are graduating cum laude, with 13 summa cum laude.
The evening's keynote speaker was FHS 1999 graduate Adam Lickey. In high school, he played football and was a wrestler, and since then has earned a bachelor's degree, a master's in divinity, and last week a Ph.D.
"Twenty years ago, I was sitting in one of those seats in Champ Auditorium; not much changes around here," he said. "Last week, I was at my own (doctorate) graduation doing the funny walk."
He said, along the way, he learned doing things the hard way was good for people.
"In my freshman year, I wrestled in the 119 weight class and I didn't win one match," Lickey said. "But I didn't give up. By my junior season, I was one of the team captains."
Staying true to his truth helped him along his path.
"I wasn't the best and the brightest; not even the best looking, if you can believe it," he added. "But I had grit."
Raising three daughters to adulthood also takes grit, as DeJesus can testify. That's what ceremonies like high school graduations are all about.
"Everything's waterproof, so that's OK," she said of her makeup while tears sprung from her eyes. "She's got scholarships, and she's already accepted into the summer program (at college)."
Also graduating her daughter, Alexis Sublett, from high school was Jennifer Bethmann.
"I'm extremely proud, and sort of in denial a little bit," she said, hugging her daughter. "She's my baby."
Next year, she will graduate her second child.
"I'll be better prepared," she said, laughing.
Alexis also said she's going into the medical field, and has been taking classes in preparation.
"I'll be going to Missouri State University (Springfield) for nursing," she said. "It's something I wanted to do ever since I was little."