Cheers, tears, laughter and thunderous applause were all shared by the thousands of people who turned out to watch as over 200 Lake City Secondary School students celebrated their high school graduation.
The floor and grandstands of rink one in the Cariboo Memorial Recreation Complex were packed with people on Friday, June 7 to watch the graduating class of 2019 cross the stage. These 200 or so students are the ‘original Falcons’ and are the first graduating class since the restructuring of the Columneetza and Williams Lake campuses.
After proceeding in accompanied by pipers from the Williams Lake Pipe Band, Julia Ziegler began the ceremony with a beautiful rendition of O Canada.
Williams Lake Indian Band Councillor JoAnne Moiese was the first speaker of the evening on behalf of WLIB Chief Willie Sellars, who was away on a business trip. She was pleased to humbly welcome everyone to T’exelcemc land and said as an educator she was happy to see so many Indigenous youth graduating this year. Moiese said that across SD27 101 Indigenous students are graduating from high school in 2019, with 59 in attendance for the ceremony.
“Education never ends,” Moiese said to the students in her address.
SD27’s new superintendent Chris van der Mark was not in attendance due to a prior engagement at a grad ceremony in Smithers. He wished the students all the best in their future endeavours via a statement.
Dean Coder, director of instruction (education services) with SD27, told the students a lot of change was coming into their lives in the future and gave them a few simple tips to make it through. Firstly, to set early achievable goals and celebrate their completion. Secondly, to surround themselves with good like-minded people that will support and lift them up. Thirdly and finally to take each day step-by-step and keep on looking towards that next step.
The City of Williams Lake was represented by Councillor Jason Ryll, who remarked at previous grad address he’d talked about the realities of life and then the importance of tolerance. He combined these two sentiments and told the graduates to be the people they want to be and to be the problem solvers of the world.
“Congratulations, you’ve made it through the easiest part of your lives so far,” Ryll joked.
LCSS Principal Greg Gaylord, who will be leaving the school this year for a new position, made sure to highlight all the students did to enrich their school. From the environmental club to the drama club and from academic to athletic excellence, he feels this class displays all the school has to offer.
“This is an exceptional group of grads, Gaylord said.
He believes the strongest attributes of the class of 2019 are their communication skills and the ability to advocate for themselves, which he praised all of them for. Most of all, Gaylord encouraged them to be true to themselves as they leave LCSS behind and move out into the world.
Gaylord has been a warm, friendly figure at LCSS for years, well-known for talking basketball with his students, and will be sorely missed when he leaves. The graduating class of 2019 expressed this sentiment by each handing him a nut or bolt as they accepted their diplomas until the last student gave him a letter telling him he was the nuts and bolts that held the school together. Gaylord was seen wiping his eyes after reading the letter.
This year’s valedictorian address was an unconventional one and begun by Gabrielle Pierce reading a children’s tale to the grads with parts from Robert Munsch and Dr Seuss. Her class, she said, were the first and the oldest Falcons and helped define the Falcon spirit now so common within LCSS.
Theirs was a time of change and new challenges, yet Pierce said they met each one and were more than a match for them. While they may have been accused of having too much spirit at times, Pierce said that their rowdy ways speaks to their potential as they embark into adulthood.
“People leave small towns all the time in hopes for something bigger and better. But I don’t believe they get the same experience we do,” Pierce said. “We have connections and relations. We can walk down the hallway and say hi to more than half the people. Teachers know our names and ask how our parents are. I think that because we live in a smaller town, we will become even bigger people.”
After receiving their hats and the announcement of the winners of many, many bursaries, the class of 2019 marched out to their class theme which fittingly is Queen’s classic Don’t Stop Me Now.
Five new bursaries were announced this year and awarded for the first time to LCSS students. They included the Vision for the Future Scholarship from Williams Lake Optometry awarded to Gabrielle Pierce, the Don’t Quit Bursary awarded to Ellen Holmes, the UNIFOR Bursary awarded to Matthew Matheson, Melkum Pitt, and Ryan Moore, the Royce Cook Memorial Bursary awarded to Ryleigh Callender, the Williams Lake Community Forest Youth Award that went to Jared Brown, Aimee Favel, Gabrielle Pierce, Jaydan Taylor and Ben Tudor and finally a homegrown effort the Lake City Secondary School Grow Operators Scholarship that went to Tannis Thompson, Kaitlin Green, and Tatiana Hill.
There were several top academic students in 2019 amongst the graduating class that recognized for maintaining a 96 per cent or better average in courses taken in both their Grade 11 and Grade 12 year. They included Maria DiMarco, Chamath Wijesekera, Ben Tudor, Sydney Thompson, Massi Calabrese, Humleen Samra and Ruth Juliana.
The Provincial District Authority Awards program rewards graduating students for excellence in a non-academic field. These scholarships are intended to assist students in furthering their post-secondary education. This year’s recipients are as follows.
Technical and Trades Training
Indigenous Languages and Culture
Applied Design, Skills and Technologies