Graduating high school is a big accomplishment, even more so when the students endure trials and challenges that take them out of the regular school stream.
And that made the Ponoka Outreach School 2017 graduation theme of ‘On Top of the World’ all the more appropriate for the 20 students going through their commencement at the Ponoka Legion on May 25.
Graduates Brynn Babyck, Tobi Baptiste, Jayde Baumgartner, Ryan Behrens, Monica Bushaw, Jada Crane, Brigham Day, Bronwyn Degiano, Trent Dupont, Raeden Echum, Dreton Foureyes, Arriana Gibson, Johnathan Gunsch, Alyssa Hopkins, Leila Kelln, Gloria McLeod, Sean Meikle, Jayne Nichols, Kieffer Northwest and Keith Van De Pol were presented with their certificates and honoured by family, friends and teachers during the evening.
The students among the class who are of Aboriginal heritage also received a traditional eagle feather from Elder Joseph Deschamps.
Outreach principal Ian Tisdale stated the evening is about the graduates, to celebrate and honour their commitment and efforts.
“As the graduates go forward in their lives, they will be able to mark this day as one that stands out, more than any other maybe. It stands out because of the work and determination it took to get here. It stands out because it’s a special feat that not everyone can achieve,” said Tisdale.
“As we reflect on (the theme), we can quickly fall on the idea that we need to find the top of somebody else’s world. As our graduates venture out and look to get on top, I hope that you look to find the top of your world — that you strive and work hard to get to where you want to be and honour yourself that way.”
The graduates were also recognized by Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) through chair of the board of trustees Lorrie Jess and director of Learning Services Sean Lougheed.
“The best advice I can offer is this — Life is short. Time really does fly by. Use your time well. Remember to work hard. Play harder. Remember an eye for an eye will leave the whole world blind. Remember to step in the other person’s shoes before you judge how they walk. And most importantly, remember to be kind to each other and to all of those you meet along your journey,” Jess said, while also acknowledging all of the people who helped the students along their journey.
Lougheed meanwhile, congratulated the students for the dedication and perseverance to overcome the challenges faced throughout their time in school.
“Reflect on your journey and look forward to the future. Your parents and teachers have done their very best to help prepare you for taking those steps in the world beyond high school. This future will be full of possibilities and now you’ll be ready to make those possibilities into realities. As you move forward — be bold, be courageous, be your best.”
In his toast to the graduates, Outreach teacher John MacEachern (aka Mr. Mac) noted the group is filled with parents, entrepreneurs, musicians, artists, humanitarians, athletes and some real comedians, but there is some sadness among the pride in seeing them graduate.
“I’ll be honest, when I think about this year’s grads I feel proud and I feel hopeful, but also feel sad because we are really going to miss them. They are great and they help make Ponoka Outreach a great place to come to work everyday,” he said.
For their part, the graduates — through their toasts to the parents/guardians as well as to the school staff — found it hard to completely express how they feel about what all of those people have done for them. Although, the students did a good job in their attempts to do just that.
Jada Crane and Monica Bushaw said their parents are more than just those who brought them into the world and they can’t imagine all of the things they did in raising them. But they both added the parents and guardians showed them tremendous love and care that has brought everyone of the graduates to this important day.
Jayde Baumgartner and Alyssa Hopkins also noted the teachers went above and beyond for the students — becoming therapists, best friends and occasionally their worst enemies. However, the students also wanted to extend some gratitude for the hard work in making the school a place to be proud of, for shaping the students into the people they are today and providing the students with unconditional love throughout the years.