This is the moment we have dreamed of all our lives
We’ll be the change we wish from others
We’ll stand tall for what is right
And in my heart there’ll be no doubt
The arms of the world will come reaching out
And embrace me to be all I can be
Now nothing can stop me
“I Believe” — Nikki Yanofsky
Ponoka Outreach School’s graduating class of 2010 chose Canada’s Olympic theme song and drew from it the inspiration to overcome their individual Olympian challenges.
Twenty-five students, with 25 different reasons for attending the school, beat the odds and received their high school diplomas in a ceremony June 15 at the Kinsmen Community Centre.
As they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas, the graduates’ family and friends shared each “I Believe” moment.
Guest speaker Lorrie Jess, Wolf Creek Public Schools board chair, told the graduates how her strong belief kept her going at the lowest point in her life.
A vibrant, active 25-year-old woman, Jess and her husband were driving the four miles home from a neighbour’s on Nov. 1, 1985, when a tire blew on their truck and it went into the ditch, rolling once. There was no compulsory seat belt law at the time and Jess was tossed around in the truck.
Knocked unconscious, she knew right away when she came to that she had a broken back. “My diagnosis was not very good. I was labeled a complete paraplegic.”
Jess was told her spinal cord was severed and she was told she would never walk again. “Talk about hitting a low point in my life.
“I was 25 years old, self-employed at my bookstore, I was in love and I had the world by the tail.”
She “went a little crazy” when she was told she would never run, swim, hike or bike again. Jess was not a model patient.
“The doctor had no idea how confident, strong-willed and downright stubborn I was. But most of all, he had no idea how much I believed I would walk out of his hospital.”
She told the grads she thought her hopes of walking again would end if she stopped believing.
Six weeks after the accident she left the hospital, not to return.
“I never ever did stop believing that I would once again walk.
Today, facing her 50th birthday — after spending half of her life in a wheelchair — Jess no longer believes she will walk again.
“But it was my strong belief that got me through the valley I was in at the time,” she said. “Had I not believed so strongly I honestly don’t know where I would be today.”
Jess challenged the graduating class to think about what they believe in and to not stop believing.
“Your beliefs will change but always believe in something.”
Principal Scott Lewis invited the graduates to think about their past, present and future and to recall their challenges as students, the good times they had together and their involvement in the community.
“Think about the perogy dinner — 500 plates that went out of our building and all of our graduates who came to work, going home smelling like onions that day.”
Lewis asked the grads to remember the teachers, parents, family and friends who believed in them as they faced their challenges.
“Savour this night, enjoy this,” Lewis told the graduates. “Look around this room at the 300 people that are here because they love you, because they are proud of what you have done. Just soak this in.”
“This is not the end. This is the beginning of a new part of your life,” Lewis said. “It’s really important to find something hard to do and master it.”
Students at the Ponoka Outreach School were also presented with scho0lastic and achievement awards.