Graduates, staff, family members and friends gathered in the cafeteria at Madawaska Valley District High School last Thursday, June 29, to celebrate the achievements of the class of 2023. Above: MVDHS graduates pose in the gymnasium after the ceremony. All photos supplied.
Once the 54 students had filed in, running the “gauntlet” of teachers and staff, the Master of Ceremonies, Vice Principal Geoff Good, introduced Trevor Pearce and Joanne Haskins who performed a welcoming drumming. Trustee David Kaiser brought greetings from the Renfrew County District School Board and congratulated the students on their achievements.
MVDHS Principal Jennifer Schooley reflected briefly on the school’s 56-year history. In congratulating the grads, she reminded them of just how lucky they are: “The character you have shown over these years is confirmation of who you are as young people as well as the community who has raised you. We are all here to support one another – that is what stands out about MV…. Remember that you are part of a community that will last forever. MV is a club that cherishes all who are LUCKY enough to be in it….and you have been given the key.”
Then it was time for the major awards. See below for list of recipients as well as the names of all Ontario Secondary School Diploma recipients. Numerous scholarships and bursaries were also announced, with grateful appreciation for the local businesses, organizations and individuals who provided them.
Learning through a pandemic
The valedictorian address was given by Hope Jessup and April Lundy. They took turns sharing their unique and very moving reminiscences of the past four years at MVDHS, and made a point of thanking everyone who had supported the class of 2023.
Hope Jessup acknowledged the experience of gaining a high school education during the pandemic. She said, ”Our four years at MV were very interesting to say the least. We all came into grade nine with high expectations not foreseeing what was going to happen in March 2020…” Jessup identified one (gold) lining in the cloud that was the pandemic: “This is the only year our school won a championship out of the four years we have been here. It was the junior boys’ volleyball team, who we are now graduating with, that brought home the gold.”
April Lundy bluntly stated, “Let’s be honest, grade 10 was kind of a blur. Some of us learned over Google Meets, some of us slept through them. Lunch went from fitting as many people as you could onto a bench to having to sit six feet apart from your friends. Masks had both pros and cons, the pros being you could hide your confusion and blooming teenage acne, the cons being you couldn’t see the face of any of your friends.”
Jessup reminded the audience that things got “real” in Grade 11. “Classes got harder, marks started to matter, we were back in person, sports teams made a reappearance, masks were in the past and we finally got to start having a normal year again.”
Lundy wrapped up the four years saying, “In grade 12 we don’t have to walk to Tim Hortons anymore, we can drive. Grade 12 is when we were finally given the most freedom.” She said, “We have all learned, laughed, gotten into trouble and most of all matured together.”
Their final message to their peers came from Jessup: “Never give up…. each and every one of us is capable of greatness. We don’t know what the future holds for us, but if we could survive what the last four years has thrown at us, I am sure we can get through anything.”