What grad teaches

By Jenn Watt

Published July 5 2016

The high school graduation ceremony is an established tradition choreographed down to the smallest detail repeated year after year. You’d think after so many renditions the players would be noticeably fatigued or that the shine of the celebration might dim but that is never the case.

The graduation remains a touching powerful rite of passage for students and the wider county community with several lessons to be learned by any spectator.

Among them:
1. Everyone deep down is taking this day seriously. There were funny moments as students took selfies with their cellphones while crossing the stage. Some wore casual shoes under their robes. A lot of students poked fun and hollered at each other but you could see as they made their way onto the stage that each one knew the significance of completing this phase of their lives.

2. Things change. Cameras have been replaced by smartphones the graduating class is noticeably smaller than in years gone by and school board trustee Gary Brohman has dropped the “go to class” segment of his speech (He has replaced it with a top-three values piece which is just as good.)

3. Other things don’t change. The gym is still hot and stuffy. Principal Dan Marsden still ties his speech together using pop music lyrics. Parents still form a mob around the graduating students as they take to the bleachers for group photos.

4. Wisdom can come from anywhere. Marsden quoted Muhammad Ali. Valedictorian Caleb Schmidt quoted SpongeBob SquarePants. Both fit.
5. Real life learning happens in high school. Schmidt opened his speech by noting how obstacles seem smaller in the rearview mirror of life. Working hard and showing up will get you where you need to go. Applies to more than high school.

6. Graduation is about the people. Beyond the robes and the diplomas and the thoughtful speeches what the annual ceremony demonstrates most poignantly is the level of support behind these hundred students. As each one walked across the stage last week they were met with a sea of faces looking back at them. Those people showed up for them. Those people are proud of them. They are the friends and the family the teachers and the community members. If nothing else each year’s commencement ceremony is about the strength of that network – a wide pool of supporters wishing Haliburton’s young people well as they head into the next part of their lives.