OXBOW - Brody Dorrance walked to the front, looking for mom.
Those nearby heard a gentle “aah” from Janelle when he found her. He had given her a red rose to celebrate the evening.
That was just one special moment in an evening filled with them. The occasion was Oxbow Prairie Horizons School’s grad ceremony, held on June 29 in the Bow Valley Park.
Last year’s grad was held outdoors and this year’s planning committee wanted to do it again. It didn’t look too promising. Ninety minutes before the start, it rained and hail was reported in the area. But by 5 p.m., the sun was out and everything was dry. Even Mother Nature wasn’t going to interfere with this day.
One by one, 39 grads worked their way to the stage carrying a rose. Each made two stops; one to give a parent a rose (and in many instances a hug) and the second, to receive their diploma.
A 40th diploma was given out. Carter Dietz had passed away earlier in the year, much to the shock and sadness of his class. His two brothers, Kaden and Hunter, accepted the honourary diploma on his behalf. As a tribute to Carter, each student wore a pin picturing a semi-colon to bring awareness to the tragedy of mental health.
Carter’s passing was felt throughout the whole ceremony.
Principal Mark Kosior pointed out that this year’s class was likely the best in Oxbow’s history academically. Five students finished with an average exceeding 99 per cent and 11 more surpassed 95 per cent. All in all, 34 grads finished with averages above 80 per cent.
As a result, more than $100,000 in scholarships were awarded. There was an interesting twist with one of them. Viktoria Forseth, a former student who passed away far too early, has a scholarship established in her memory. Her brother Kolby came forward to announce Keinna Freitag as the winner, but when Frietag came up to accept, she surprised everyone by declaring that she wasn’t the winner. The actual winner was Kolby who came forward again, this time to accept.
Freitag ended up with the highest average and earned the distinction of being class valedictorian. Her speech extolled the humility and kindness of her classmates.
A few tributes were given. First, Makenzie Kitz paid homage to the parents. Her dad, Shane, responded. Cassidy Lamontagne then offered a tribute to the staff of the school. Teacher Ashley Kosior replied to that. Tributes are often used to get in some humourous digs, but not on this occasion. The words were genuine and respectful and showed the humility and kindness that Freitag had spoken of earlier.
As the evening drew to a close, guest speaker Tracey Arnold addressed the class and audience. Arnold graduated from Oxbow in 1996. In 1990, her family was involved in a horrific car accident that left her in a wheelchair. Despite her disability, she is an impressive arm-wrestler and plays goal for Canada’s women’s sledge hockey team.
Her message was inspirational. She emphasized that everyone’s life journey is different and includes various setbacks. She challenged all, from her own life story, not to be defeated by those setbacks, but rather to see opportunities in loss. Her message was the exclamation mark on a very inspirational evening.
The evening finished with a dance. Students danced with their escorts and with their parents. Then everyone headed into town for the grad parade, a parade on foot following the car that Carter Dietz used to drive.
From start to finish, it was an uplifting, emotionally encouraging evening. It was a grad that was filled with many stories.