One dozen students completed one of the most important rites of passage on Tuesday afternoon, surrounded by a small group of family, friends, and community supporters.
Dressed in cap, gown and smiles, they paraded through the Agassiz Legion Hall to take their seats as high school graduates. But first, their teacher, Ray Steigvilas, gave a brief introduction of these graduates, and outlined some of the tragedies and triumphs they’ve faced along the way. For some, the road was longer than others — the oldest graduate this year is more than 80. And for some, the road was rougher.
But they all made it to graduation.
That wonderful milestone.
Each student made it there with the help of Agassiz Centre for Education, either through studying in class at the small main building, doing schoolwork at home, or connecting with teachers through the satellite campus at the Harrison Beach Hotel. The school’s administrator, Sandy Balascak, reminisced about a year full of “ups and downs.”
Many of the events held by ACE have become traditions, including their regular ACE burger sales, Senior and Teen meals, Christmas breakfast, Erase Bullying Day, and their haunted Halloween house.
In addition to the celebrations held for the grads, Balascak and her students were thrilled about another success. They have been given the proper permission from the health inspector to bottle and sell their much-loved ACE burger sauce, naming it SAS — Sandy’s ACE Sauce.
“None of this would happen without the phenomenal support we have in the community,” Balascak said. And the proof is in the certificates handed. Just a few years ago, only four students made it through to graduate. This year, she noted, that number has tripled.
While not all graduates could attend the ceremony, those that did heard from some of their community supporters through heartfelt speeches. Supporters like Agassiz librarian Terrill Scott, who has partnered with ACE for many years.
“All I need to say is I need help and I have extra hands,” she said of the ACE students, who spend a great deal of time in the library.
Graduate Al Ptak, a senior student, gave the graduate address.
“I have earned and received quite a few certificates and diplomas during my lifetime,” he said, “but there was always one missing.”
But it’s missing no more, he added.