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Photos: Estevan Comprehensive School 2024 grad celebrations

More than 170 students are part of this year's graduating class.

ESTEVAN - The Class of 2024 at the Estevan Comprehensive School had plenty of reasons to celebrate on Saturday, thanks to the graduation ceremony at Affinity Place.

More than 2,000 people filled the events centre to congratulate the grads on their milestone, and to wish them the best in the future. This year's grad quote was "Embrace uncertainty, chase your passions, and let curiosity be your compass", and much of what was said harkened back on that quote.

The ceremony began with the processional. Family and friends cheered wildly for the grads as they walked by. Teigha Lesy, who is part of this year's grad class, sang O Canada, and another grad, Jayren Schulz, delivered the land acknowledgement while discussing his own family history.

Schulz said he has often been asked about his ethnicity, but he didn't know the answer. He found out he has descendants who are Cree, but he also has some Black and settler roots.  

Jayden Kuchinka and Thoklowah Min gave the tribute to the parents, and Osama Kamel and Keira Zepeda provided the tribute to the teachers. At one point, the five teachers at the Comp. who will be retiring this year were recognized. 

James Jones gave the principal's address for the first time, as he moved into the role last summer. At one point, he noted how happy he was to be at the ceremony. The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation agreed to binding arbitration with the provincial government-trustee bargaining committee on Friday, and lifted sanctions that afternoon, allowing teachers to participate in grad. 

"Know that I'm very proud of all of you, and I'm honoured to share a few words with you," said Jones.

Drawing on this year's quote, Jones urged the grads to take a moment, look around Affinity Place, and see all of the people who were gathered to celebrate them.

"Know that all of the educators that have been part of your journey, from pre-kindergarten to Grade 12, are very proud of you today," said Jones. "This … represents your school community, and we are very proud of each and every one of you for reaching this academic achievement."

He always finds it amazing to watch the students transform from nervous Grade 9s – some of whom can't open their lockers – to a group of young adults with "bright dreams and incredible goals".

Jones said ECS will continue to have the grads' best interests. He urged them to pick up the phone, send an email and drop by to share their latest accomplishments.

"Your educational journey has been unique, and one that has been marked by notable events that have shaped you and have prepared you for your future," said Jones, who called the grads a "resilient group".

Education provides opportunities, he said, and he hopes high school has afforded the grads positive experiences that made them better people while instilling the importance of life-long learning.

Jones believes the Class of 2024 has accomplished academics, artists, musicians, athletes and future community leaders.

"Please take time to be proud of yourselves," said Jones. "Take time to enjoy the interactions and the conversations that you have this afternoon and this evening."

Jones then called up vice-principal Craig Palmer for more words of advice, some of them serious and some humourous. He reminded the grads to take time to do something for someone else, thank the people who gave of their time, win with humility and lose with grace, avoid comparisons, not to fret if their greatest accomplishments are done in silence and wander in life if necessary; but also use butter and salt when cooking, make their beds every day and remember it is OK to play with Barbies.

Finally, he urged the grads to go do some memorable things.

"Next time I see you, I want to hear some stories," said Palmer.

Kevin Perkins introduced valedictorian Elora Holman to give her address. Holman had a perfect 100 per cent average for her Grade 12 year, and is looking to become a mathematics teacher – to Perkins' delight.

Jones, Palmer and vice-principal Brian Wright handed out the diplomas. Students' future plans were read out as they received their degrees. 

After the diplomas were presented, and following a brief break to allow the grads to get dressed in their finest clothes, a grand march was held. Students paraded on the arena floor, and then participated in a couple of dances.

Then they converged on the Estevan Court House for the annual grad photo, which showcased all of the stylish dresses and suits the grads were sporting.