South Peace News
Achieving a major educational milestone, 19 graduating students at St. Andrew’s School in High Prairie were honoured at commencement ceremonies June 25.
St. Andrew’s principal Marc Lamoureux called graduation a memorable moment.
“It’s a milestone we often remember for a long time,” Lamoureux said during the ceremony at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church.
“This group has displayed dedication to their studies.
“These graduates have heart.”
Amellia Vanderwell received the Governor General’s Academic Award and Medal, presented to the graduate with the highest average mark in the school.
As class valedictorian, Vanderwell commended her classmates for persevering in the pandemic and restrictions that started in March 2020.
“The past three [school] years have provided us with a mountain of unique challenges,” Vanderwell said.
“COVID slowly took over our daily lives and everything ground to a halt.
“Life in quarantine was difficult and lonely.
“It was so different from everything we knew.
“Home schooling, Google meets, masks and cohorts became our new normal.”
The pandemic has presented many unique lessons in life, she told classmates and guests.
“What those long years apart have taught us is that we need a network of people to support us,” Vanderwell said.
“As we were locked down, our world opened up through Internet.
“Despite this, we were isolated from each other and the school.
“Learning took on a whole new meaning and for so many, it was a struggle.”
She added students have so many people to thank to help them persevere.
“Even as we finally returned to the classroom and our new normal, the effects of the last few years were so evident,” she said.
“But through the support of the school, parents, and wonderful teachers, we learned to deal with these new challenges together.
“We know we couldn’t have done it without you.”
She trusts that St. Andrew’s graduates have made a mark in the school community.
“I hope that we leave St. Andrew’s being remembered for not only surviving a global pandemic and high school, but for leaving the impression that even when things get tough, we get things done.”
Holy Family Catholic Regional Division congratulated graduates. Assistant Supt. Cora Ostermeier encouraged the graduates to make a positive influence in their future.
“As you go into the world, find what you love to do,” Ostermeier said.
“Your work will fill a large part of your life and the only way to be truly happy is to do what you believe is great work.”
She urged them to make the best of every opportunity and experience.
“Don’t be afraid as you start your new chapter in life,” Ostermeier said.
“Learn from every mistake because every experience and encounter is there to teach and guide you into your new potential.”
High Prairie trustee Leanne Cox also congratulated the graduates as she reflected on the class’s theme song 22 by Taylor Swift.
“Everything will be alright if you keep me next to you,” Cox quoted one line from the song.
“Perhaps we can interpret the ‘me’ as God, our Lord Jesus Christ.
“And the ‘you’ as the graduates.
“Everything will be alright if you keep me [God, Jesus, your faith], next to you.”
She further urged the graduates to take the lines to heart.
“It immediately creates a sense of security that you can take with you as you begin the next chapter in your life,” Cox said.
Municipal leaders also congratulated the graduates. Town of High Prairie Mayor Brian Panasiuk commended the students for succeeding during COVID-19 restrictions.
“Graduates, you have had to show remarkable flexibility and adaptation, along with incredible intrinsic motivation and dedication,” Panasiuk said.
“These traits may not show on your resumes, but they will serve you well in the future.”
He added the pandemic has equipped graduates to face tough challenges.
“You have already proven that you can conquer the most unpredictable times and changes that any of us could have imagined . . .You are resilient, you are smart.”
Big Lakes County Reeve Robert Nygaard encouraged the graduates to move forward with what they have learned.
“You have accomplished something that not many people have experienced in their lifetime: graduating during a global pandemic,” he said.
“Take the lessons that you’ve learned the last couple of years and use them to guide you to where your future is meant to guide you.
“Never stop learning and always make the most out of each opportunity that presents itself.”
He gave the graduates words of confidence.
“The world needs your unique perspectives and goals,” Nygaard said.
“I have no doubt that each of you will make a positive mark on this world.”
Father Lawrence Odoemena blessed the graduates during Mass.
“Let your light shine, the world needs you to shine,”Odoemena said.
“Be strong and courageous.”