This year at the joint West Coast Adventist School and Cariboo Adventist Academy graduation ceremonies held in Williams Lake, parents were emotionally moved as a tearful Rita Bryant, of Terrace, paid tribute to the parents of students in this year’s graduating classes.
Earlier in the month, the graduating classes of the two schools had selected Rita to deliver this year’s tribute to parents.
She was excited to be given this opportunity on behalf of the class and began right away to prepare the speech that she would deliver to the significant people in these students’ lives.
With the help of her father, Peter, she drafted the speech, the contents of which were kept as a secret surprise for her mother to be delivered on the Friday night of graduation weekend.
Rita has been a student of West Coast Adventist School, the distributed learning school operated by the British Columbia Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church office of education, located in Williams Lake for the past four years.
She began attending online classes when she entered Grade 9 and continued to attend as her family moved a couple of times around the province.
Over those years she developed friendships with her online classmates and came to know them better when she visited the school for Face 2 Face Weeks. These are times when online students come to attend classes at Cariboo Adventist Academy to enhance their academic experience.
On the morning of Friday, June 1, one week before graduation, tragedy struck the family when Peter was killed in a helicopter crash just outside of Terrace. It was not known if Rita would be able to attend graduation, let alone give the speech she and her father had worked on together.
By the beginning of the following week it was apparent that Rita would be attending, and she was still determined to deliver that speech. Bailey Helicopters, Peter’s employer, arranged for two of their employees, both personal friends of Rita’s father, to join the family for the weekend in Williams Lake, and to “stand in” for her father.
On the Friday night of graduation, Rita approached the microphone and began delivering the tribute to the parents. In the second row, Rita’s mom, Vi, could be seen watching her daughter. At the beginning, Rita faltered a bit, and one of her classmates came and stood by to hold her hand.
With great determination she continued on saying, “I want to break this down into two parts, since there is a mom and a dad.” When she concluded speaking about the support given by their mothers to the grads, it looked like Rita might not be able to continue as she transitioned to speaking about fathers.
When her classmates saw she was beginning to become overwhelmed with emotion, her entire grad class came and gathered close around her to lend their support to her.
As Rita completed her tribute to parents, surrounded by her fellow classmates, the entire auditorium stood to their feet in ovation to this young girl’s courage and determination.
Story by CAA principal Lee Richards