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Carstairs grads show 'how resilient we really are'

Outdoor ceremony held Aug. 21.
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Graduates and guests sing O Canada at the opening of Hugh Sutherland's graduation ceremony. Dan Singleton/MVP Staff

CARSTAIRS – The Hugh Sutherland School graduating class of 2020 will be able to look back with pride at having overcome the many challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the co-valedictorians said during last week's graduation ceremony.

Held in a drive-in format outside the Carstairs Memorial Arena on Aug. 21, the ceremony saw more than 100 vehicles with hundreds of family and friends watch the 65 graduates receive their diplomas on an outdoor stage.

Brianna Thompson and Aiden Good are the 2020 valedictorians at Hugh Sutherland.

“Through all of the nonsense we have persevered and been better for it,” said Thompson. “We have learned not only our intended subjects but got schooled in some life lessons along the way.

“We learned resiliency beyond measure, flexibility above our academic and social lives and the ability to hold tenaciously onto our goals. It wasn’t a simple or easy journey, but we made it.”

Good echoed Thompson’s comments.

“We have preserved through every hard moment, learned from every mistake and every lesson and cherished the memories made each day,” said Good. “At the end our of lives we will look back at this time, our final year of high school (and) remember how you have grown as people and embrace this time as a celebration of finishing one chapter and moving onto the next.”

The graduation ceremony saw addresses from a number of dignitaries, all of whom talked about the unique challenges faced and overcome by the 2020 class in the face of the pandemic, which brought in-person classes to a halt in March.

Earl Dreeshen is the MP for Red Deer-Mountain View, which includes Carstairs and area. He gave his remarks through a video played during the ceremony.

“Don’t let these current set of circumstances (pandemic) lessen your sense of accomplishment or dampen your optimism for the future,” Dreeshen said.

“If today’s circumstances have shown us anything it’s how important it is to help our neighbours, respect our fellow citizens, and be there for those who might be facing difficulties.

“This community is proud of each of you and is excited about seeing you set forth on your chosen careers. We look forward to seeing your skills and ambition make a difference in the world around us.”

Nathan Cooper is the MLA for Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills. His riding includes Carstairs.

“What an amazing story you have to tell,” said Cooper, who also gave his remarks through a video. “The future of our province is so bright because of people like you. We all are proud of you.”

Lance Colby is the mayor of Carstairs.

“You have gone through a year like no other,” Colby told the graduates. “You have persevered and shown that you can handle big changes and come out on top. You have shown you can adapt to the change and succeed.”

Melissa Copley is a school board trustee with Chinook’s Edge School Division.

“COVID or not, this is the coolest grad I have ever been to,” said Copley. “The world is changing in ways that we still can’t completely understand and you are heading out into the world to help make those changes.”

“Be kind. Show grace as much as possible, you never truly know what someone else is dealing with. Think outside the box. Challenge the status quo and dream about possibilities.”

Kurt Sacher is the superintendent of Chinook’s Edge School Division.

“This pandemic has challenged all of us to just show how resilient we really are, what we are made of as people and communities,” said Sacher. “Today’s graduation is a striking example of what can be done when the world doesn’t make it easy on us. This world of ours needs the gifts that each of you will bring.”

George Thomson is the principal of Hugh Sutherland School.

“I’ve gotten to know all of these grads as fine you people and they all deserve to be here,” said Thomson. “I’ve come to learn that they possess many attributes, attributes that have served them well, especially in this unprecedented time.

“Even though these are challenging times, you now have coupled with your already wonderful attributes learned skills and life-lessons that will move you forward, cause you to grow, and will allow you to excel in your future.”

The masters of ceremony were Laura Lee Hrabok and Dean Nielson.