As the end of June rapidly approaches, students from across the school district are eagerly awaiting the next few months of summer freedom.
However, for a few hundred students at Mount Baker Secondary School, it will mark the closing chapter of a 13-year journey from Kindergarten to high school graduation.
Preparations for grad ceremonies are in full swing as staff and parents get ready to mark the occasion at Western Financial Place, which will be on Thursday, June 29, starting at 5 p.m.
The ceremony will maintain traditions in years past; the grads will march into the arena in their regalia and then local dignitaries will make some presentations, vocal jazz will provide entertainment, and members of the Ktunaxa drumming group will also deliver a performance.
During the evening, the grad class will have the chance to hear from two of their own, as valedictorian Bronwyn Damm and historian Matthew Honeyman will take a stroll down memory lane and look ahead to the possibilities of the future.
“I’m both nervous and excited,” said Damm. “It’s something new, something exciting to do. I’m going into university and that’s going to be a whole new experience for me.”
Damm, chosen valedictorian for her academic success, is setting her sights on a Bachelors of Science program with the University of British Columbia, with a major in computer science.
A french immersion student, Damm cherishes the friendships she made over her years in school and the connections she’s made.
As for her message during the commencement ceremonies?
“I’m hoping to just maintain some enthusiasm and tell them to go out there and try, at the very least,” Damm said. “You can’t succeed if you don’t try and I want to tell them to not give up. Determination is always an important step; a lot of people hit a wall when they go out into the world, they don’t know what to do, so I want to try to give them some words to encourage them to keep going.”
Honeyman, who won the right to represent the class as Historian in a student body vote, ran for the honour because he relished the opportunity after overcoming a childhood fear of public speaking in junior high school.
“I figured I could,” Honeyman said. “It would be a challenge, it would be a nice continuation, but people told me I could probably do it and I love these people. All these Grade 12 [students] are amazing people. So if I can get up there and give them a message from my heart, I want to try.”
There are a lot of thoughts and emotions to process as the student body approaches their graduation, he added.
“It’s a bit of a scary process, but there’s an incredible amount of freedom involved,” Honeyman said. “We’ve had this set way of living, of doing things. You show up to school almost all of the time and when you’re not in school, you’re working for school.
“Then all of the sudden — boom — it’s gone. 13 years of that and there’s no more structure like that.
That’s kind of scary.”
Once the evening program has run through all the pomp and circumstance, the grads will march across the stage to receive their hard-earned high school diplomas.
For MBSS principal Viveka Johnson, the end of the school year is a time of reflection.
“For this particular group, they’re extra special to me, because I started with them, so we’ve gone through this journey together,” said Johnson. “I had them in Grade 10, 11, and 12 and it’s just so neat to see how they mature, how they turn into the citizens that they’re becoming, how they advocate for themselves, how they make this community a better place.
“It’s exciting but it’s also kind of sad at the same time. You’re seeing your own kids go off and grow up, but ultimately, they’re a real special group and they’re largely successful because of the people at Mount Baker. It’s the staff that works so hard and so well together to make this school great.”
According to school records, there are 272 students slated for graduation, however, that number could increase as students who are lagging in their graduation requirements meet final deadlines.
Last year, Mount Baker graduated 234 students, while this year’s Grade 11 group — next year’s graduating class — includes 288 students.