Dress shoes poke out from under graduation gowns as students make their way down a dim hallway towards the stage. Ten at a time, students crossed the stage at Princess Margaret Secondary.
Multiple ceremonies on Friday, June 19, allowed students, although not all together, to feel a sense of normalcy with a few family members in the audience.
Many students were emotional as they turned their tassels, and hugged their families, signifying an end to years of hard work and dedication.
Princess Margaret Secondary principal Roger Wiebe said seeing the last of the graduates file through the school, is bittersweet.
“Even in a graduation ceremony where you don’t have the hundreds of people, I still feel very emotional seeing them cross and having to say goodbye, but also the emotional of recognizing all their accomplishments.”
Wiebe said as a school, part of a big organization, expecting the unexpected is always something they prepare for. Although the coronavirus pandemic took unexpected to another level, he said adaptation is part of how a school needs to operate.
As the school edged closed towards the end of the year, Wiebe admitted their administration team was faced with some uncertainty. When everything was said and done, Wiebe said it was great to see everyone come together and make graduation happen for the students.
“For us, it means a lot, when you anticipate people feeling let down, and then parent after parent, student after student saying this is incredible, and thanking the school so much for making it (graduation) special and unique. And in some ways… better than other experiences that we’ve had.”
A beautifully decorated graduation ceremony in the common area was something the school had been planning since day one, and they were relieved they could still have this, despite the limited numbers per session.
On decorated tables, spaced apart, sat family members and friends who watched with joy as their loved ones crossed the stage. In the corner, a photo booth. In bright red letters above the stage; Grad 2020.
“Just make it a really family-oriented, special time for the students, and I think we accomplished that,” said Wiebe. “A lot of energy went into all the different elements.”
For Sydney Shelley, graduating is surreal.
“I can’t believe I’m here, because I’ve actually been doing school for 15 years… to be here now, all that journey, I’ve always been very much slower than other people too. So (it’s) just unbelievable.”
When COVID-19 struck and news that they wouldn’t be returning to school reached the students, Shelley admitted she was taken aback.
“I kind of went through some grief, a little bit of grief, I think everyone did.”
Although graduation didn’t go exactly how she wanted it to go, Shelley said she’s happy. Despite the long journey up to graduation, she looks forward to continuing to learn.
“To be honest, I’m Grade 12, but I’m still quite the child. I can’t wait to see the person that I’m going to be come, outside of school.”
As an avid music fan, Shelley hopes to pursue a career in what she loves most; the guitar.
“I’m going to work my butt off on the guitar, and I’m going to get there, and I’m just going to rock.”
In five to ten years she hopes to be living out of a mystery van, as a travelling musician.
“Happy, and just pursuing the dream.”