It was an evening to reminisce and catch up with old friends as the 2011 graduating class from Elmira District Secondary School reconvened in the school gymnasium for one final time Oct. 28.
The graduation ceremony began with the procession of students past their applauding families, and a formal greeting from school board trustee Harold Paisley and principal Mary Ann Richer.
“Many of you have already begun to experience the next part of your life: first year of college or university, work, or perhaps you’ve travelled. There are so many opportunities ahead of you,” said Paisley standing in front a packed gym.
He encouraged the students to remember their roots of EDSS, but to develop their wings and to soar to new heights and to discover new things.
“Cherish and honour your roots, stretch and soar on your wings,” Paisley said.
Richer echoed Paisley’s message of taking the next step beyond the comforts of high school and testing their personal limits. She said that the next few years would be a time of discovery and even unrest as they find their way in the world, but to not give up on their dreams.
“Choose something you believe in, and give it your best,” she said.
“Pick a dream that fills you with passion and work towards it with all of your heart so that you will never have any regrets for missed opportunities.”
Following her speech, the awards portion of the evening began. More than 65 awards were given out, ranging from academic or sporting success while at EDSS, to scholarships and bursaries to be used as they pursue a career past high school.
Riley Doering was the big winner of the evening, taking home 10 awards.
After the graduates received their awards and diplomas, the graduating class’s valedictorian, Vanessa Lachance, delivered her speech.
In it, she continued the theme of the evening by encouraging her friends and fellow grads to step outside of their comfort zones, “rub a little dirt in it,” she said, and branch out and touch other people’s lives.
She also touched on her own personal struggles with an illness in Grade 11 that limited her academic and athletic success that year.
“It’s not success or accomplishment that defines you as a person, but embracing hardship and pushing through adversity, and not struggling to reach an end but experiencing each moment individually,” she revealed.
Finally, she reminded them of the fact that they were a community while attending school together, and that by leaving they were entering another larger community. She said that this community was crucial to maintaining a happy and healthy life, and to eventually develop into the person that they are meant to be.
“We flourish in community, we are meant for dependence.
“Be content in the present, treasure relationships, move with confidence into the future. Life is not a chore; it is a delight in every moment.”