‘Ready for anything’: Calgary high school grads mark occasion with in-person ceremony

Calgary high school graduates are once again walking across a stage and receiving diplomas in front of an audience, marking the first in-person ceremonies since the pandemic shut down traditional in-person grad celebrations in spring 2020.

The class of 2022 is also unique for having navigating all three years of high school as COVID-19 circulated. The University of Calgary hosted at least two large in-person graduation ceremonies on Tuesday.

Some of the 650 grads from Joane Cardinal-Schubert High School (JCSHS) were thrilled for the chance to celebrate together, sharing hugs, high-fives, bouquets and taking group photos.

“I’m happy that I can now. I know that a lot of people before because of COVID couldn’t and I’m happy that I can actually be here,” said graduate Cameron Benson.

“It was incredible. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this forever. And with COVID and everything and the classes before that didn’t get to (graduate in-person), I feel like it’s a great experience and I’m really happy that my class got to finally do it,” said fellow graduate, Emma Mountain, who is an aspiring singer.

The school’s principal says the moment was extra special — to pull off the first full-scale grad ceremony since the southeast school opened four years ago.

“Nothing right now is taken for granted. I think they appreciate and they see that and I think they are mature beyond their years,” said principal Garry Tink.

PANDEMIC IMPACT THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL

The pandemic forced Alberta schools to close in March 2020, when this crop of grads were partway through Grade 10.

Rules around masks, distancing, online learning and cancelled extra-curricular activities persisted through their high school years.

Celebrations in 2020 were cancelled or became virtual events, while last year’s grad ceremonies pivoted to drive by events to maintain physical distancing.

STUDENTS CELEBRATE RESILIENCE

Western Canada High School held its closing exercises or graduation ceremony at the Jack Simpson gym at the University of Calgary on Tuesday afternoon.

“Knowing what it’s like to have something taken away, it really shows us the true value of what we have,” Soroush Rohanizadeh, Western Canada High graduate.

Some of his fellow graduates also say they are feeling resilient.

“We really had to depend on ourselves the most and I feel like that’s a really important skill to learn,” said Venus Rezvanpour.

“Although it was in a way a disadvantage, it still built us up in a way that we will be ready for anything that comes our way,” said Saif Farag

The more than 900 grads and special guests filled the Jack Simpson gym as a supportive crowd captured the occasion.

“I am very happy to see this situation and these ceremonies and I hope we see more for university and so on,” said Mohsen Rohanizadeh, parent of a high school graduate.

Other parents are not concerned the class of 2022 will have issues progressing into adulthood.

“They may be a little different than other graduating Grade 12s, I’d say they’re no further back,” said Kjelti Kellough, parent of a high school graduate.

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