MALLAIG - The graduating class of 2021 from École Mallaig School was decked out in gowns and suits on Friday, as per tradition, for their high school graduation ceremony.
Typically, the celebration involves a gymnasium filled with friends, family, school staff, and community members. While students were still able to walk across the stage, and an afternoon celebration was held in their honour, even those closest to the graduates would have to watch from a distance, virtually.
The ceremony included introductions and stories about each of the graduates. An opening prayer by Father Jhack, the parish priest for Saint Jean-de-Brebeuf, in Mallaig, opened the ceremony. Father Jhack spoke to students, via video, and offered them some advice and congratulations.
He reminded students that sometimes they will not know the value of a moment until that moment becomes a memory. He also acknowledged the students' "well-deserved success."
Principal Kellie Handford also spoke to students. While the 2020/21 school year was no doubt a year to remember, and there were many challenges, the graduating class of 2021 persevered. She noted that so many changes happened at such an important time in the students' lives.
But added, "You have so much to look forward to."
She encouraged students to look back on what they've learned, and to surround themselves with people that matter.
"I am so proud of you," said Handford.
While the pandemic has taught many people that there is a lot in life they are not in control of, Handford reminded students that there are many things that can control, such as their attitude and their efforts.
She also encouraged them to "show gratitude" and say thank-you.
Handford also acknowledged the efforts of parents and school staff, noting, "it really does take a community to raise a child."
Another lesson the pandemic has taught people is that no one is really ever that far. In fact, "we are just a click away," said Handford, as she told students to reach out if they ever need support.
St. Paul Education board chair Heather Starosielski also spoke to graduates, virtually.
"It's been a crazy year for you guys," said Starosielski.
"You are amazing, simply," she said, adding, she can't wait to see what each of the graduates chooses to do next.
County of St. Paul Reeve Steve Upham and Coun. Dale Hedrick were also part of the graduation celebration, offering their congratulations via video.
Upham reminded students of the importance of education, and also said, "as you go through life, do what you love to do."
MP Shannon Stubbs also delivered a message to graduates. While this year didn't go as many had planned, "you can take your next steps forward," said Stubbs. She encourage students to make their own path in life.
Valedictorian Treston Moisey offered his fellow graduates a message. He asked his peers to cherish the memories they made, and to be excited for what's to come.
He spoke to how the class was very close, which was especially apparent during their Christmas gift exchanges and lip sync battles.
Moisey also offered his thanks to the school's staff, and each of the graduates' families.
"We're all going to be a successful bunch," said Moisey.
During the speeches, the graduating students were described as being a great group of role models for the younger students at the school. They showed a great level of maturity during the many challenges brought on by the pandemic, and were said to be a class like no other.
The graduating class of Mallaig School includes: Jullien Corbiere, Patrick Corbiere, Shelby Curry, Brooke Dechaine, Ry-Anne Dechaine, Dante Devlin, Sherease Dort, James Karpyshyn, David Kim, Treston Moisey, Kyle Ouellette, Lyric Ouellette, Marla Sachko, Ethan Sidor, Payton Smith, Finn Stepp, and Emma Tidd.