OLDS — During their graduation ceremony on June 25, the École Olds High School (ÉOHS) class of 2021 was applauded by many speakers for two main things: being one of the smartest groups ever to enter the school and for having completed high school despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several speakers noted that the class of 2021 had 13 students with averages of 90 per cent or more.
Many also said by going online, off-line and back online several times, the grads have emerged more resilient than ever; something that will no doubt serve them well in the future.
Co-Valedictorians Mona Fazakas and Aiden Teal touched on that theme during their valedictory speech.
Fazakas said she and her fellow classmates could have decried the loss of all that was normal and simply given up. But they didn’t.
“The adversities we have faced during the pandemic have taught us values that we can take into our future to make the most of all the opportunities we have ahead of us,” she said.
Teal elaborated on that point.
“At a time when we should’ve been the most divided, our class came together as a united front; whether that was through helping each other with classes, quarantining, or even helping each other with various personal problems, to conquer the hardships,” he said, adding that lesson will enable them to be more successful in the future.
Principal Tom Christensen noted these are very contentious times as passions boiled over due to pandemic restrictions and people seem to have become more intolerant of each other. He urged the class of 2021 to work to overcome those divisions.
“If we’re going to beat the politics and contempt that exist in our world, we’re going to need something more radical than being civil; something that speaks to our heart,” Christensen said, adding that something is love.
Olds mayor Michael Muzychka noted he received his high school diploma on the Olds High School stage more than three decades ago.
Muzychka encouraged the class to be proactive as they head out into the world.
He used the old Latin phrase carpe diem (seize the day).
“Carpe the heck out of this diem,” he said.
Olds-Didsbury-Three Hills MLA Nathan Cooper told the grads they’ll likely only have about six days in their lives as important as their high school grad, including weddings and the birth of children.
“You have put in this incredible effort to get where you are today and you have an amazing opportunity to make a difference, not only in your lives, but in the lives of others and the lives of our community, and I challenge you to do just that,” Cooper said.
“Your parents are never going to be more proud of you than they are today. So if you’re looking for a prime opportunity to ask for money, tonight’s the night,” he added, sparking some laughter.
Red Deer-Mountain View MP Earl Dreeshen urged the grads not to be too impatient to realize their goals in life.
“It’s important to understand that success is not an overnight (birth) you have your whole lifetime to be great at many things. Achieving your goals takes time,” Dreeshen said.
He also urged the grads to be empathetic and compassionate to others as they strive to achieve their goals.
Jason Drent, associate superintendent of the Chinook’s Edge School Division added his congratulations -- not only to the grads -- but all those from bus drivers and maintenance staff to teachers who did whatever it took to make the students succeed, despite the pandemic.
CESD trustee Trudy James advised the grads to make sure they choose a job they enjoy doing.
“Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you love what you do. If you don’t love your job, it’s going to be a struggle,” she said.
Like other speakers, James urged the grads not to be afraid of failure, because it’s usually from failure that we learn and eventually succeed.
Christensen paid tribute to Maggie Robblee who is retiring this year.
He and Robblee started at ÉOHS the same day in 1984.
At Christensen’s suggestion the grads paid their own tribute via a standing ovation.
Vice-principal Gayleen Roelfsema is stepping down as vice-principal but will continue working, Christensen said in an email.
The ceremony was also available online. People from as far away as Australia, the Philippines, Scotland and Europe watched it.
For the second year in a row, the ceremony in the gym was followed by a parade of grads in vehicles through town.