INNISFAIL — It was the first time in three years that local high school graduates had looked out into a packed audience of several hundred family members and friends to take in the immeasurable pride and joy of achieving a major life goal.
It was a glorious afternoon on June 3, and the 91 graduating students of the Class of 2022 from Innisfail High School (IHS) and Innisfail Career High School were certainly elated to get their cherished diplomas but there was more to celebrate.
They had not only made it through high school, they persevered through the global COVID-19 pandemic, a trial they hope no others in their lives will ever have to go through.
For the Class of 2022 their victory over adversity on that front will always be a source of strength they can draw from as they march triumphantly into the future.
“When you have doubts you face the challenges that future brings you. We managed to persevere through this pandemic and have the honour to celebrate our success here today,” said co-valedictorian Dylan Martin. “There should be nothing that can stop us from overcoming the future challenges we face, no matter what path we choose to follow.”
Martin’s co-valedictorian Tiha Schaedeli agreed, but acknowledged she had full support and guidance through the pandemic from teachers, family members and peers.
“We have come up as successful,” said Schaedeli. “All of us on the stage today act as a symbol of our perseverance, and (that) allows each of us to carry those accomplishments as we venture into our new lives.”
This year’s graduation ceremony at IHS began at 1 p.m. with the 91 graduates proudly marching into the packed gymnasium to take their places on the stage.
Grade 11 students Olivia Bergeron and Liam Hansford were Mistress and Master of Ceremonies.
Before the diplomas were handed out, there were brief addresses from six special guests, including Earl Dreeshen, federal MP for the riding of Red Deer – Mountain View; Devin Dreeshen, provincial MLA for the riding of Innisfail – Sylvan Lake; Holly Bilton, board chair and school trustee for the Chinook’s Edge School Division (CESD); Connie Huelsman, councillor for Red Deer County; Ray Hoppins, associate superintendent for the CESD, and Jean Barclay, mayor of the Town of Innisfail.
Barclay urged graduating students that whatever passion they chose for their lives going forward that they do so with all their “hearts” to find their “magic.”
But more importantly than career success, said Barclay, was always be kind and respectful to others, consider the welfare of your community and always be a guiding light and helping hand to others.
“I hope that you will give back to your community in whatever capacity you can,” said Barclay. “I hope that you will hold your family close and understand how much they love you and how proud they are of you. And I hope you always lift others up when they need it.”
Earl Dreeshen said the “kindness factor” was especially important, noting the young graduates had to “help carry people along” through these last couple of years.
“And I really think that becomes the critical part, because in this world, at this point in time, that is something that we certainly need, because our country awaits your enthusiasm and awaits your desire to make a difference,” said Dreeshen. “Today, we are recognizing the hard work that you've done.”
IHS principal Wayne Pineau closed out the graduation ceremony by telling graduates that while they might be ending a chapter in their lives, another is opening up, and that life itself is a series of beginnings, not endings, just as graduations are not terminations but commencements.
Pineau urged the Class of 2022 to “rise up, leave your safe haven” and overcome obstacles that might come their way and ascend to greatness.
“Don't let hardship get in the way, because there will always be difficulties,” he said. “When we create a perfect world, where love and compassion are shared by all, suffering will cease.
“We want you to move forward as a positive force in the world, working to ensure that we share love and compassion with those around us in all that we choose to do.”