Wisdom and advice designed to keep them grounded was the emphasis of the evening for the graduates of Ponoka Secondary Campus (PSC).
A total of 102 graduating students heard a variety of those thoughts before crossing the stage to receive their certificates at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex on June 2. This year also marks the 50th graduation ceremony for the school.
Staying true to the Class of 2017 theme song Humble and Kind by Tim McGraw, the speech from Wolf Creek Public Schools (WCPS) board chair Lorrie Jess set the tone for the rest of the evening.
Jess opened up by congratulating the grads and noting the life course they follow is up to them. Then, she outlined how her life path led her down some very difficult and even tragic challenges. This included the accident that left her a paraplegic and her husband’s suicide that left her with three young children.
“Blindsided and humbled (by her husband’s death), it took a while to wrap my head around that experience and the need to be kind, having to answer questions from young children and not having all the answers,” she said.
And if that wasn’t enough, Jess tested positive for the breast cancer mutation gene.
“I was convinced I deserved a break, but I was served humble pie once again and I still choose to be kind,” she explained, adding 11 years later she would be diagnosed with breast cancer and have a double mastectomy performed.
“I was not feeling particularly humbled, but I had 11 years to think about it and what to do. That was until I got home and was not physically able to transfer myself in or out of my chair. It hurt, but I was humbled when my son, then 16, lifted me in and out of bed plus on and off the toilet for five days.
“He did this with grace, laughter and kind encouraging words and I had a new title — cancer survivor. So my message to the grads is keep a positive attitude in challenging and humbling times. Be kind to those that become part of your life, as it helped me move forward in mine. Do I like being disabled? No. Do I miss my sports? Yes. Am I frustrated? Sometimes. Do I miss my husband? You bet. Was the accident tragic? Perhaps. Is my life tragic? Certainly not. I learned it’s all how you look at life and what I see is a big, bright beautiful world for you to tackle.”
Next, Ermineskin Cree Nation Chief Randy Ermineskin came to stage and stated he was proud of the 23 First Nations students among the graduates as well as the rest of the class.
“Like your theme, be humble and kind and don’t put yourself higher than others,” he said. “Stand shoulder to shoulder and take a hard look, as we are all connected and we all need to appreciate each other more.”
Justin Hyink and Hailey Rausch were selected to speak as co-valedictorians. The pair focused on how being present, in school or in life in general, plays an important part and that time simply flies by.
There was one quote that summed up the address is this — “In life we do things. Some we wish we had never done, some we wish we could replay a million times in our heads. But they all make us who we are, and in the end they shape every detail about us. If we were to reverse any one of them we wouldn’t be the person we are. So be present, live life, make mistakes, have wonderful memories, but never ever second guess who you are, where you have been, and most importantly where it is you’re going.”
And just before the Class of 2017 accepted their ticket out of high school, PSC principal Ian Rawlinson took a few minutes to impart a few lessons (or memes as he called them) upon the graduates.
Among the things he wanted the students to remember — Mondays suck so make the most of it; some things are meant to remain private so think before you click, post, snap or send; just chill out and take your time getting to places as it will be much more rewarding when you arrive, listen to others before you speak because even Donald Trump knows more about life than you and life is not fair and owes you nothing so get out there and do something.
“And lastly, congratulations on getting through the easiest part of your life,” he said to huge applause. “My wish for you is simply please be happy, please be successful no matter what that means to you and never forget the lessons we tried to teach you. I am proud of all of you for your significant accomplishment.”