Valedictorian Ross VanDeWeyer (shown here being introduced at the Grand March on Saturday) gave an encouraging and positive message to his fellow graduates from the Class of 2021, as part of the virtual grad ceremonies shared with grads and their families on Saturday evening by the Weyburn Comprehensive School.
The virtual ceremonies were complemented by in-person activities planned by the parents grad committee, which included a grad parade through Weyburn’s downtown area, the Grand March at the fairgrounds, and to end the day, a fireworks display synchronized to music.
The virtual grad included two songs by the grad choir, with O Canada to start off the video, the introduction of the graduates, the principal’s address by Ryan Fowler, and a school board greeting by trustee Melanie Sorensen.
The tribute to the parents was done by Kiera Pittman and Khloe Bedore, with a reply by Tanya Heebner and Angela Bedore, followed by a tribute to the teachers by Kate Goranson and Jayda Cameron, and a reply by Trent Berling.
In his speech, VanDeWeyer said he didn’t want to dwell on the pandemic, but due to its impact on the school year, he referred to its effects on school.
“The truth is we’ve all been more isolated this year than we would’ve otherwise preferred – except me, I’m a bit of a recluse. Many extracurricular activities were lost, the hectic switching between vastly different learning environments and the stringent and frankly annoying protocols have all made for what is, in short, a pretty lame year,” he said.
In spite of these challenges, he added, he congratulated his classmates for making it through a “demotivating environment”.
“I can honestly say that coming to school this year and seeing my classmates has been one of the few fun things throughout this, and I got the impression we were all a little desperate to see one another, no matter how nonchalant we may have acted about the whole situation,” said VanDeWeyer.
He noted he did some research on previous valedictory speeches, and noted the trend was often for words of encouragement for the graduating class.
“As I’m sure many of my classmates will attest, I’m not a terribly encouraging person by nature. Lord knows I’ve made many snide remarks at the expense of serious subjects,” he said, adding he would try to be encouraging as he wants the year to end well.
“We are all too keenly aware of standing on the brink of leaving home to begin our own independent self-contained lives, and as we enter our adulthood, we are going to scatter. It doesn’t matter whether you’re packing up and moving out, or staying in town to do your own thing, our drifting apart is inevitable, and after spending all this time together, that separation seems almost unbelievable,” he said.
His advice to his classmates was not to worry too much about drifting apart, because their memories of times spent together, both good and bad, will always be with them.
“This high school is where we grew up together and made some of our very best friends, and had our first crushes, and all that cheesy stuff,” said VanDeWeyer. “Some of us even learned a little while we were here too.”
He urged his classmates to think of their upcoming future as a new stage of learning and growing, and a time when they can surround themselves with people of their own choosing, “to take advantage of the vast possibilities. In other words, it’s time to be independent adults, so don’t dwell too much on the past, be content with your memories, keep your high school class in your heart and get out there and make your way in the world.”
He added that as graduates they have statistically already burned through 21 per cent of their expected lifespan, so there’s no time to lose.
“I’ve spent these last few years with such a colourful, passionate, entertaining and frequently downright peculiar group of people, and it has been an honour. I mean this when I say I wouldn’t be doing any of this without my classmates,” said VanDeWeyer. “You have all taught me so much. I will miss all of you, best of luck out there.”