The transition from high school to the working world, post-secondary education, or whatever ones plans entail certainly isn’t easy. Celebrating the years of friendships, memories, and achievements was for the students, staff, family members and friends who gathered to conclude one chapter of life and open the beginning of another at the Ponoka Composite High School graduation.
There was only standing room available at the arena as a massive crowd of encouraging onlookers watched their loved ones take part in the 2009 convocation ceremonies on June 5.
One by one the 106 grads made their way to the stage prior to invocation by Jerel Peters from Wolf Creek Youth for Christ and remarks to the class of 2009.
MP Blaine Calkins was unable to attend because he was in Ottawa so superintendent of schools, Dr. Larry Jacobs read a letter on his behalf.
“While this is a time to celebrate accomplishments, never underestimate your ability to succeed. You diploma is the key to opening the doors to your future. Be open to learning something new and don’t be afraid to tackle new challenges. Invest in your future and Canada’s future by developing the knowledge and skills that will make you community and our country the best place to live. Congratulations to each of you, your parents and your teachers and best luck in all of your future endeavors.”
MLA Ray Prins, spoke next.
“It really is an honor to be invited here today to speak on behalf of our government and congratulate you on your accomplishments. Graduating opens doors and new opportunities. 2009 seems like everything is upside down but the economy will turn around again. Like your theme suggests, don’t stop believing. The future will be just as bright as the past. You have the ability to impact and change the world.”
Lorrie Jess, Wolf Creek Public Schools trustee shared a personal story of the importance of this year’s chosen theme.
In 1985, Jess was in a car accident with her husband that broke her back, leaving her unable to walk. She wouldn’t accept her diagnosis and tried everything in her power to get her legs functioning as they did prior to the accident.
“I continued to work hard and never did I stop believing I wouldn’t walk. Here we are 24 years later and I’m not walking. Do I still believe I will? No – not in this lifetime because it’s medically and physically impossible but it was that strong belief and determination that got me through the hardest of times. Had I not believed, I do not know where I would be today.
I challenge you to not think so much about what you will do and where you will go. I challenge you to think about what you believe no matter how difficult or impossible the journey seems. Your beliefs will change, but always believe in something,” she concluded.
Ian Rawlinson then gave the principals’ message that generated many laughs.
“I never really cared much about my future when I graduated, after all – I had a girlfriend, a job and supportive parents. I had a cool 1974 Ford Pinto station wagon with a porthole window in the back, ” he joked before going on to explain he had a 68 percent average and didn’t think university was an option but after a series of life lessons he started to believe in himself and soon realized self belief is what life is all about.
He then sang the lyrics to the song “Don’t Stop Believing” while analyzing each line of it in a humorous way before declaring, “I now realize how much 80s music sucked, but I do, however, like the theme. I have never given up believing and I challenge you to do the same.
Believe in yourself, your goals, your dreams, your successes and learn from your failures. Believe in others – they make us who we are. Believe we all have good and we shall find good in everyone. Believe as 150 people did last weekend when we raised over $20,000 for cancer that cures can be found. Believe your generation will be better than ours and leave the planet cleaner. Believe – simply believe.”
Twenty-three scholarship awards were then distributed followed by Kelsey Slater’s valedictory address.
“I’ve decided to keep it simple and speak from the heart,” she said. “As we sit here today, I ask you, every graduate, to look around the arena. You’ll see your parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts, uncles and friends here to witness us get the recognition we deserve because we realize the importance of an education and the opportunities it allows us,” she said. She mentioned that at times, the four-letter word quit seemed like the easiest thing to do but we managed to get through the day because of these people in our lives.
“Our dreams and aspirations will take us in different directions, but I strongly believe we all want to succeed. Choose what you like and go for it. Take on the challenge, never back down and never give up,” she said.
The presentation of certificates followed and prior to the closing remarks, a new tradition called the last graduate was unveiled.
Each year, one teachers’ exceptional work will be recognized at the graduation ceremonies and this year, J.P Disonier was called to the stage to be thanked for his outstanding involvement in student athletics throughout his 18-year career. After he made his way to the stage and thanked everyone for the honorable recognition, hats were tossed in the air before the night concluded with a reception.
On June 6, everyone was back at the arena in their gowns and suits for their banquet followed by Safe Grad.