A partial view of the Mount Baker Secondary School Class of 2019, at St. Eugene Mission Resort, near Cranbrook, June 28, 2019. Barry Coulter photo

Past, present and future reflected in Graduation

This is likely to be old news for most of you — but I found myself taken aback by the emotional quotient of all those Mount Baker Secondary School graduation exercises last weekend.

It should be noted that, having my own daughter graduating from Grade 12, this was the first graduation ceremony I ever had cause to be emotionally invested in. I’m including my own graduation ceremony in this broad judgement — back in that year of 19—, when not only was I not invested in my own graduation, I could barely summon the wherewithal to care that I’d even graduated. Different time, different world … I managed to put a brave face on it.

One thing I brought away from my graduation was the realization of the joy the whole community had for us, for this completion of that first stage of our lives, and the beginning of whatever awaited us in our new adulthood. Not just family and friends, but the whole community network, a village.

This occurred to me again last weekend, decades later. Of all the ceremonies we have constructed for ourselves, a graduation is unique in that the whole community takes part in it, and becomes a village, an extended family. This celebration is also strictly not rooted into the past like most others that mark an anniversary, or even a high holiday.

I loved how we all crowded into the Rec Plex for Commencement, Thursday, June 27, to see the grads parade in, to “Pomp and Circumstance.” The Ktunaxa Drummers and singers were very powerful, and the final performance by this year’s Vocal Jazz Ensemble was their best yet. Great words offered by Principal Viveka Johnson, ?aq’am Chief Joe Pierre, Superintendent Lynn Hauptman, School Board Trustee Wendy Turner and Valedictorian Isabella Fiorentino. And the succinct phrase or two offered up for each graduate by the readers as the grads walked across the stage to receive their diplomas offered a surprising amount of insight into their personalities and their school history.

And then the colorful reception at St. Eugene Mission Resort the next day, Friday. Having attended the two previous receptions as photographer at Rotary Park and the Key City Theatre, I enjoyed St. Eugene the most, as an appropriate venue for the graduates to parade their finery, their pride and their whimsy.

And while we were marking the achievement of these young people, this graduation ceremony also had a strong focus on the future — and whatever form that future will take for each individual graduate, at the moment it seemed filled with endless possibilities. This is where the joy of the occasion comes from.

But the past is very much present — to coin a phrase — and with the past comes melancholy. Seeing kids I’ve known since Kindergarten walking across the stage as adults made me realize, practically for the first time, how much time has passed — 13 years — and how that passage of time has brought change to us, children and adults. This is where the melancholy comes from.

The future is always filled with uncertainty and challenges — Oh kids, please don’t make the mistakes I made, etc.

Ah the kids, they break our hearts. Ah, life …

It’s worth noting again and again, the dedication shown by the teachers and school staff in helping our young people through the turbulent years of adolescence and school and into their futures, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them all, for all those years, and for the organization of a very real, profound, and emotional graduation ceremony. All the best to you all for the summer.

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