I’m a bit of a grad ceremony junkie. I think it started with those of my own kids. That first taste of hope, achievement and excitement, mixed the quiet sadness that accompanies any rite of passage, means I’m addicted for life. So Friday evening’s Canmore Collegiate High School grad was a welcome break – a chance to shake off the budget blues and celebrate with students, parents, teachers and community.
As always, it was an emotional evening. Principal Angela Flynn is retiring; this was her last graduation. She graduated – ahem – 42 years ago from the single school that served Canmore then vs. the four schools in the community now. Plaudits came from Superintendent Brian Callaghan, the final student to receive his certificate and, perhaps most moving, from a Stoney Nations representative, who gave the departing administrator an eagle feather and a blanket. This was to recognize her part in increasing, over time, the graduation rates for the district’s First Nations students. We’ve come a distance but still have a long road to travel. Aboriginal Liaison Teacher Jeff Horvath’s work (see Kim Bater’s post) is paying off. The pride of three of the six graduates and their teacher beams through in the photo below.
The valedictorian, Jenna Buxton, gave an inspiring speech which she lightheartedly began in rap. O Canada included some French lines (ben, OUI!), some students showed their individuality by sporting unusual – or no – footwear under those gowns; by the time the mortarboards were tossed in the air, I had cried three times. It was an affirmation of my raison d’être for trusteeship. Seeing these children complete this part of their journey refueled my passion for this vital work.
After the formalities, I managed to touch base briefly with some of the students and their families for – I confess – a shameless contact high. Lastly, I exchanged a few words with teachers and administrators. That might have been the best part. Either directly or indirectly I was sent a message: Canadian Rockies Public Schools will not stall the progress in learning that a belt-tightening budget can induce. Too much ground has been gained to abandon or retreat. Hope renewed, I left for home. We can do this; we will do this… together.