Cade Lembke distinguished himself and was given the Schulich Leaders Plaque and the Ontario Principal’s Council - Principal’s Award for Student Leadership. (Submitted photo)
The Renfrew County District School Board Technical Studies Medallion was awarded Gavin Bartlett for his effort throughout the year. (Submitted photo)
For her efforts helping the community, Rowan Watts received the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award. (Submitted photo)
Sam Abbott is the 2020 Valedictorian for Valour JK-12 School. He spoke eloquently in his heartfelt Valedictory address about his high school years to his peers. His photographer father Dustin Abbott provided the above image. (Submitted photo)
Petawawa’s Valour JK-12 School celebrates Class of 2020
By Patricia Leboeuf
Posted on Thursday July 9th, 2020
High School graduations mark the end of an era for students and a global pandemic wasn’t going to stop the Valour JK-12 School’s class from having their moment - though considerably different than the normal pomp and ceremony.
From the safety of their own homes, students and their loved ones watched the ceremony take place online. Though they could not walk the stage on June 25, their hard work and dedication did not go uncelebrated.
Each student was given their moment to shine when their name and accomplishments were splashed across the screen. It mimicked how they would have typically received their diplomas.
“Your high school journey has come to a close,” said Principal Bryan Baird to the students, “and we are here to celebrate your success.
“Each of you has the ability to do anything you want, to become anything you want,” he added.
It was a bittersweet moment for many.
They are the first graduating class in recent history to have seen so much of their school year turned on its head due to COVID-19. But despite the challenges, they persevered.
While some will move on to the workforce and some to post secondary education, they all received their high school diplomas together.
“Each of us sitting here is going through a monumental event in our lives,” said Valedictorian Sam Abbott to his peers.
“I know this is not how any of you imagined our graduation day going or our final year of high school going,” he added, noting the beginning of the year was marked with teacher strikes while COVID-19 consumed the latter part.
Yet despite this, he was positive, encouraging students to remember the friendships built over the years and the good times they shared.
“When you look back to your memories of high school, the question shouldn’t be what you see but rather who you see,” said Abbott. “During your time of achievement who was with you? Perhaps more importantly, during the times when things got tough who was with you?”
These bonds have enriched their lives, even through the difficulties, and have helped prepare them for the future.
Once in the adult world, these students will encounter hurdles and delights beyond their current experience that will help shape them into the men and women they were meant to be.
“While the circumstances surrounding this special day are unique to you and your friends, I want you to know that regardless of the way in which we all gathered to celebrate your accomplishments, it does not diminish, in any way, the importance and the significance this means to you, your friends, your parents and all the other members of your family,” said Bryon Morris, Renfrew County District School Board trustee.
By going virtual, the school was able to receive a special message from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In his speech, he acknowledged this might not be the way these grads wanted the day to go.
“But even though this day is different than the way you planned, I want you to know that this moment is still very special,” said Trudeau. “Nothing can take away the hard work it took to get here.”
He credited this generation of young people for their ability to stand up for what is right, to fight against oppression and to take to the streets to move forward in equality.
“Your generation will continue the fight for a more just and equal world,” said Trudeau. “Your passion and your dreams will shape what our future can and will look like.”
Another benefit of having the ceremony online was that it allowed singer Jason Blaine to offer his own words of congratulations and advice before performing a song.
Traditional guest speakers were also part of the ceremony - Mayor Bob Sweet brought greetings from the town, offering his praises to the 2020 grads and urging them to “take on the world; it is yours to conquer.”
Similar sentiments were shared by then-Commander of 4th Canadian Division Support Group (4 CDSG) Brigadier-General (BGen) Louis Lapointe.
“I know it’s hard now but trust me when I say it’s going to make you stronger,” he said. “You are about to move into the world with your eyes wide open. You’ll bring positive change to the world.”
This generation is very cognizant of social injustices, are more aware of what is needed to change them, and are willing to put in the work.
“I know you’ll become the new leaders our world needs,” he added.
As per tradition, the major awards were also announced to conclude the ceremony.
They included the University of Toronto National Book Award, presented to Valedictorian Sam Abbott. He was also the recipient of the Governor General’s Academic Medal.
The Schulich Leaders Plaque was received by Cade Lembke, and he was also awarded the Ontario Principal’s Council - Principal’s Award for Student Leadership.
Rowan Watts received the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award.
The Renfrew County District School Board Technical Studies Medallion was given to Gavin Bartlett.