For most high school students, graduation is a time to celebrate years of hard work and it was no different for Ponoka Composite High School Students June 1. It was standing room only at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex and everyone could feel the frisson as graduates presented themselves to staff and parents.
First to address the grads was Wolf Creek Public Schools trustee, Lorrie Jess, who principal Ian Rawlinson said advocated for a school with government.
She said students were probably expecting to hear her say, “Follow your dreams, touch the sky, shoot for the stars…nobody ever mentions you may not get a good job for 10 years, your car is going to break down, and that you will have your heart broken a time or two.”
Jess did not offer expected clichés to graduates, but she did have some words of wisdom she received from the movie Hope Floats.
“Beginnings are usually scary, endings are generally sad, but it’s what happens in the middle that matters the most. Class of 2012, when you find yourself at a new beginning as you do today at your grad ceremony, remember to make the middle count,” she stated.
She concluded with the hope graduates will be able to make the best of their experiences and congratulated them on completing Grade 12.
Next up was Jayson Lovell, assistant superintendent of schools, who was there to speak on behalf of Wolf Creek administration.
“I’m going to start by saying Wolf Creek is extremely proud of your ability to never lose sight of your goals,” said Lovell.
He felt it took tenacity and dedication to complete high school while it was under construction and modernization. “You’ve excelled in the face of constant, commotion, constant change and constant uncertainty. I have news for you, your experience of high school has prepared you for life, because that’s what it is all about.”
Students have seen a transformation of how they used to learn, from classroom layouts to teachers changing their mentoring habits. Lovell said staff and teachers were a key factor to helping graduates work through all types of challenges. “For that we are grateful.”
Rawlinson said PCHS has a significant First Nations student population and Samson Coun. Jerry Saddleback Jr. was there to honour their work.
Humbled to speak to the graduates, Saddleback said it was a personal moment for him as his younger sister, Miranda Saddleback, was graduating as well.
“I’m a proud big brother.”
“To the graduating class of 2012, I want to share with you that anything is possible if you put your heart to it,” he stated.
Much of the trials students have overcome to graduate and get through high school will shape the rest of their lives, offered Saddleback. “May you all be successful and prosperous in your endeavors.”
Rawlinson was the last to speak and he gave a slideshow presentation of PCHS teachers when they were young. When he graduated, Rawlinson felt he could change the world. “I knew I was going to set the world on fire, I would move mountains.”
He used the example of Steve Jobs, who made a large impact on the world with his Apple products; change could also come from “just us. Just ordinary people who believe they can make a difference.”
Students may not remember everything they learned in high school such as physics, Shakespeare and chemistry, Rawlinson said.
“We hopefully have taught you one thing, and that is to think, and with that alone comes the power to change the world,” he offered.
His hope for graduates is that they have the tools needed to move forward in life. He concluded by saying he would miss them all and encouraged them to enjoy the weekend and to be safe in their festivities.
After the ceremony, graduates had the chance to take pictures and visit with family and friends. Some students took some time to say how they felt.
“I feel amazing. I’m so ready to go out into the world,” Justin Smith exclaimed.
Smith plans to attend Grant MacEwan University and eventually transfer to the University of Alberta to study nanotechnology.
Jason Rausch, who also won the Almita Scholarship, stated simply he was “proud and excited.”
On June 2 graduates celebrated with a banquet at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex. Decked out in their finest, many drove up in classic cars and limousines.
By Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye