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Column: Grad a celebration for the community

An opinion piece on the upcoming Estevan Comprehensive School's graduation day.
Grad-hat toss-4604
The grads tossed their hats in the air at the conclusion of the graduation ceremonies

One of the toughest events to lose over the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic was high school graduation.

For smaller communities that have a high school, graduation is a cherished event whose popularity extends well beyond the school.

Obviously, grad is, first and foremost, about the Grade 12s. They’re the ones who have put in the time and the work to get to this stage in their lives. They’ve made sacrifices. They’ve done their homework and passed the tests. And many of them have taken an active role in the life of the school.

But grad is also about the grads’ parents and other family members. It’s about teachers and support staff and even administration at the school. It’s about the other people who have helped shape these young people.

And in a village, a town or even a community the size of Estevan, there are a lot of people who have played an important role in these kids’ lives. Most of us are fairly close to at least one person who will graduate in our community this year.

That’s a big part of why it was so hard on so many when COVID dashed the hopes of in-person festivities.

When the Classes of 2020 and 2021 look back on their respective Grade 12 year, it will be tough that they didn’t get the big, elaborate ceremony with so many people packed into an arena or school gymnasium.

But communities pivoted to make grad as memorable and special as possible. In Estevan, there was a grad cruise in 2020 and a grad parade last year. Both events proved to be a big success and they gave the community the opportunity to show up and pay tribute to the graduating classes.

We’ve had some pretty memorable images from these events the last two years.

Other communities had similar events. Some had the grads stand in place while community members drove by, waved, smiled and honked their horns.

Many places created banners with photos of the graduates.

It wasn’t always ideal, but the effort, the thought and the sense of caring were there, and for that, people should be grateful.

When COVID-19 restrictions were lifted last July, some schools were able to organize a full in-person grad ceremony, but others couldn’t.

We’re going to get a grad ceremony this year. Some communities are reverting to grad the way it was before COVID, or at least as close as they could get it. Other communities are looking to splice together elements of what happened before with activities of the past two years.

The cap-and-gown ceremony for Estevan will happen at Affinity Place on Saturday, with the speeches, pomp, circumstance and the presentation of diplomas. Then there will be the annual grad photo in front of the Estevan Court House, weather permitting of course.

The parade will follow. If you want to see the kids smiling and waving while dressed in their finery, the parade will be your opportunity.

I don’t know how long we’ll have events like grad cruises or parades. It’s something that might prove to be effective and popular for just the next couple of years, or it might become an important event for years to come. But as long as it’s well supported by the community, I hope they will continue.

I really do hope that the Grade 12 make the most of this year. They know that their predecessors for the past two years didn’t have the same opportunities that they do this year. They know how tough the past two years have been, because they’ve been in the schools. And they encountered a lot of uncertainty this year, not knowing for part of the school year whether COVID would nix another grad night.

And I hope future graduating classes will realize how fortunate they are to have everyone present for their cap-and-gown ceremony.

Hopefully the schools and communities that already had their graduation had a fun, smooth night.

To the grads, smile big. Enjoy this last time together with all of your friends together. You might not have that opportunity ever again. Enjoy the parties. Reflect on your accomplishments, and set new goals for the next years in your lives.

And above all else, regardless of how you celebrate, be safe.