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Walshe Class of 2021 praised for resiliency

Class of 2021 members toss their caps at the end of the ceremony.

A resilient group of 38 students filled with strong resolve walked the red carpet Saturday evening at F.P. Walshe school to receive their diplomas.

The Class of 2021 dealt with numerous challenges thrown at them by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the loss of sports and other extracurricular activities and transitioning from in-class learning to home, and back.

“I don’t have to point out the obvious but I guess I will, that this has been an extremely challenging year for everyone,” Chad Jensen said in his principal’s address.

The grads lined the school lawn for the community drive-by prior to the cap and gown ceremony.

Jensen said no one could have predicted when the pandemic began in March 2020 that conditions would persist through the first six months of this year.

“The thing that continues to amaze me is the resolve and positive attitude of this group of Grade 12s,” Jensen said.

The pandemic changed everything at F.P. Walshe school, including the way lessons are taught, and forced cancellation of many parts of normal school life.

“This student body has been phenomenal this year in rolling with the cards that we’ve been dealt, and none more so than this special group of Grade 12s,” Jensen said.

A drive-in style graduation ceremony was held to comply with pandemic public health measures.

Family and friends stayed in vehicles in the school parking lot, while the grad class was seated in front of the school.

The Class of 2021 is Megan Aebli, Grayson Archibald, Jack Austin, Kian Bautista, Dylan Baxter, Sarah Beebe, ILeigh Butler, Ryan Cervo, Aaron Charlton, Andrew Charlton, Alexa Cooper, Amy Craig, Brandon Creighton, Kyrell English, Kaelan Ferguson, Haze Gillingham, Joyce Holwerda, Nick Housenga, Genna Kunz, Kristina LaCerte, Jesse Lyke, Janelle Many Bears, Marco Medema, Vy Nguyen, Esther Oosterwijk, Lydia Orr, Nicholas Pansky, Beth Pelkey, Sydney Perry, Keilah Pineda, Abigail Roberts, Courtney Ross, Dominic Schaalje, Payton Van Driesten, Kimberley Walker, Chase Woods, Mathew Wu and John Zmurchyk.

Assistant principal Mary Krizan served as mistress of ceremonies and began the evening with a moment of silence for the 215 students whose graves were discovered on the site of a former Indian residential school at Kamloops.

Student Sarah Beebe sang O Canada and Kainai elder Joe Eagle Tail Feathers gave a blessing.

Jensen and Krizan felt an instant sense of belonging in their first year at F.P. Walshe school, which speaks to the leadership and character of the Grade 12s.

“Those leadership qualities will serve you well in the future and will be very much missed here at our school next year,” Jensen said.

Jensen said he appreciated the kindnesses shown by the Class of 2021, from bringing a cup of coffee to simply asking how his day was going.

“Through all the adjustments . . . this group continues to hold their heads up while moving forward and maintaining a good sense of humour,” Jensen said.

Jensen quoted hockey star Wayne Gretzky, who famously said you miss 100 per cent of all the shots you don’t take.

“The only way we learn and grow is by taking risks,” Jensen advised the graduating class.

Former F.P. Walshe teacher Courtney Wehlage, who now works at a Lethbridge school, was a surprise guest speaker.

Wehlage spoke fondly of her time with the grad class during their Grade 6 year, and of the laughs and tears they shared.

Wehlage reminded the students that the many people who cheered for them and provided support and love through high school will be there as they move into other parts of life.

In her parting message, Wehlage urged the students to be kind to others; allow themselves to fail; love themselves; share their joy, struggles, sadness and accomplishments; help others; and educate themselves.

“You are the leaders of today, and today you start on your journey that will forever leave a mark on this world,” Wehlage said. “The Class of 2021, you amazingly kind, intelligent humans, thank you for making me who I am. Thank you for being part of my life.”

Amy Craig and Payton Van Driesten presented the “Most Likely” Awards, humourous predictions of what the Class of 2021 will accomplish.

Following the presentation of diplomas and eagle feathers and an honour song by Patrick Bad Eagle and Jay Bad Eagle, the Class of 2021 took part in the traditional grad cap toss.

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