Graduating students in Sparwood will get to keep their banners as a keepsake once they are taken down later in the summer. Photo Submitted

Elk Valley grads bid adieu to high school

Despite the pandemic, Elk Valley schools devised creative ways to keep graduations going

Despite the changes and difficulties this year’s graduates faced as a result of the pandemic, Elk Valley secondary schools devised a variety of creative ways to celebrate their 2020 graduates.

To commemorate their senior class, the District of Sparwood joined forces with the Sparwood Graduate Committee to install banners with photos of all 40 graduates throughout town. With support from the mayor of Sparwood, David Wilks, public works employees helped the students hang the banners, which will decorate the community until July, when they will be gifted to the graduates.

To further celebrate graduates, windows all over Sparwood have been decorated with congratulatory signs and words of praise.

Following Sparwood Secondary School’s live streamed commencement on June 23, where graduates and their families were allowed into the ceremony on a one by one basis, a procession of decorated honking vehicles took to the streets of Sparwood. The Parade of Grads brought numerous cheering community members out to honour the students as they drove past.

Fernie Secondary School (FSS) will be holding their graduation ceremony in their gymnasium at 11 a.m. on June 26. In order to abide by distancing regulations and remain under 50 people, only faculty and graduates are allowed to attend the ceremony, however the event will be live streamed to allow families to tune in. The ceremony will be carried out in full, including a valedictorian speech and the receipt of scholarships and diplomas.

Though their traditional Grand March and prom night have been cancelled, co chair of the Grad Committee, Francesca Caravetta, mentioned that this is the best outcome given current circumstances, and is confident the variations will benefit the graduates in building character.

“This certainly has been an exercise in perseverance, to be resilient, and to really understand that by using those qualities, things do work out in the end,” said FSS principal, Erin Hay. “It is truly a life lesson, that even if it’s different it doesn’t mean that it’s not good enough. Their graduation is different, but we are making the best of the situation we have, and it will still be celebrated in a meaningful way. We’ve had a bit of a journey but I feel really good about where we’ve landed.”

Caravetta and her co chair, Layne Corrigan, would like to thank all of their teachers and community for the support they received over the years, along with their classmates for making the last decade of their lives so memorable and valuable. They would also like to thank their parent chair, Kim Stokie, for the hours put into ensuring seniors could still celebrate their graduation.

“We are very thankful that we still get to celebrate as a class and make one more memory together, as some schools are unfortunate to not get this opportunity,” said Caravetta. “Despite these uncertain times, it will not diminish the hard work we have accomplished over the years and our graduation is something we will never forget. We will embrace the challenges and changes and we are turning it into something positive. We are not alone as everyone in the world is facing these challenges and as a grad class, we are very grateful to all the parents for making this special day happen.”

Elkford Secondary School (ESS) is also going forward with their graduation ceremony on June 25. Taking the ceremony to their graduate’s front doors, select school staff will visit each senior via a decorated graduation bus. Wearing their cap and gown, each graduate will receive their diploma, scholarships and bursaries, as well as a recap of their career at ESS. Graduation speeches have been pre recorded and provided to the families of the seniors, along with a video celebrating their graduation. A professional photographer has also been hired to take photos of the graduates and their families at the event.

Proud of his seniors for their achievement, principal of ESS, Michael Kelly, chose to honour their graduates in this way for three reasons.

“First off, we wanted to make sure we honoured each graduate for what they have achieved. Second, family is important in Elkford and we believe this allows each graduate to celebrate with their family. Lastly, as a school we want to be safe and ensure our actions respect provincial health orders,” said Kelly.

The Fernie Academy (TFA) is welcoming both graduates and their parents to celebrate this year’s graduation at 11 a.m. on June 29 at Park Place Lodge. The event will see musical selections and speeches from the head of school, Jocelyn Sombrowski, dignitaries, and this year’s valedictorian, Sienna Longo.

“Although it will be difficult for us, TFA’s Graduating Class of 2020, to eventually go our separate ways and my life will be quieter without your big personalities, I know that we are nothing if not resilient and prepared to face any of the challenges life will throw our way,” Longo wrote in her valedictorian speech. “We have performed, travelled, laughed, cried, played, and learned together. The family we have created will always be a text (or a Zoom meeting) away.”

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The smiles of graduating students radiate from banners hanging around Sparwood. Photo Submitted

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