Hope Secondary’s 2017 grads do the traditional cap throw during graduation ceremonies. (X.Y. Zeng/Hope Standard)

Individualized ceremonies, parades replace traditional ceremonies for Fraser Cascade 2020 grads

Students will graduate like no other class before them, as COVID-19 forces big changes to Grad 2020

For Fraser Cascade’s 2020 grads, their celebrations and ceremonies will look unlike anything previous students have experienced.

Amid an ongoing pandemic and restrictions on large gatherings still in place across the province, Hope Secondary School and Agassiz Elementary Secondary School (AESS) are forgoing traditional graduation ceremonies. Instead, personalized ceremonies and community parades will replace the time-honoured traditions of grad and prom in School District 78.

“We’re trying to make the best of a bad situation,” said Greg Lawley, AESS principal. “We want to give grads a great experience despite the restrictions we have on gatherings and distancing. We still want them to be able to be with their families and the group of people who showed them the way.”

At AESS, a ‘Parade of Grads’ and invidiualized ceremonies are planned. Lawley said the ceremonies would be recorded – likely on a DVD – and sent to the grads as a keepsake.

Between June 11 and 13, grads will be allowed to invite up to 9 family members to a 20-minute individualized ceremony in the school’s gym. The gym will be decked out as usual with lights, an archway, and more, yet COVID-19 measures will also be in place including disinfecting of seating between each ceremony. Grads will still get to ‘walk the traditional red carpet and down the aisle through the arch and up to the stage with the grad song playing,’ a letter from the school stated. Scholarships will still be given out and a video of speeches from the superintendent, local municipal and First Nations leaders and the Valedictorian will be shared with each grad.

In photos: Agassiz Secondary honours the graduating class of 2019

A June 13 ‘Parade of Grads’ is also planned for Agassiz grads, starting at the school. The parade, led by an RCMP vehicle, will go through Harrison, Seabird, Agassiz and possibly Sts’ailes if the First Nation is open by this date. The parade will end at the Broken Whisk, where family dinners are being offered for grads.

While the celebration deviates from the usual tradition, Lawley said the grad parade was a “good answer” to the unusual circumstances in which the class of 2020 finds itself. He encouraged the community to come out to the parade and show support for the grads, making noise, applauding and doing whatever they can to celebrate.

Hope Secondary School will be conducting individualized ceremonies and a community parade on Saturday, June 6. At 10:30 a.m. students will gather outside the school, organizing themselves in alphabetical order while maintaining the 6 foot physical distance mandated by health authorities.

“We really do want to honor our students in this very difficult time,” said Hope Secondary principal Rosalee Floyd. “We wish things were different, regardless we are proud of them and want to be able to show, in some small way, just how much they mean to us.”

In photos: Graduation season in Hope and the Fraser Canyon

While students are lining up outside, a community pedestrian and vehicle parade is planned as long as the weather holds up. Everyone in the community is welcome to come out and congratulate the 2020 grads.

At 11 a.m. students and their families will prepare to ‘walk the stage’. This will involve a graduate and up to 10 guests entering the school, walking the stage and photo opportunities. “We plan to have two stages set up in the school,” Floyd and vice-principal Karl Koslowsky wrote. “This allows for distancing and ease of flow of families.”

The festivities are being kept to one day and will include the traditional caps and gowns, scholarship presentations, valedictorians and messages from the superintendent, Mayor and principal, even if the messages will be through video and not ‘live.’ “We’re trying to adhere to our traditions and at the same time be a little bit, well, innovative, just because of the weird circumstances this year,” Floyd said.

“To celebrate the kids, we wanted it to be as live, in-person as possible for everyone, rather than to be virtual and sit on the couch and watch this happen,” Koslowsky said.

Read more: Virtual proms, online grad ceremonies: Teen milestones hit hard by COVID pandemic

A letter sent to Hope Secondary families Friday is just an outline of what will happen on June 6, Floyd said, adding organizers have several suprises ‘up our sleeve’ for the around 43 to 45 grads. Administrators are setting up a Zoom meeting with families ahead of the day, to answer any questions they might have.

Details on each school’s grad plans:

Hope’s Two Rivers Education Centre and Boston Bar Elementary Secondary School are still in the planning phase for their students’ graduations, superintendent Karen Nelson confirmed.


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A 2018 grads cuts loose on the dance floor at the Hope Secondary School prom festivities. (Barry Stewart/Hope Standard)

District of Kent mayor John Van Laerhoven – a 1966 AESS grad – gave a speech to 2018 graduates Friday evening, telling them, “I am confident you are prepared for what lies ahead as you take your next steps…You will make all kinds of choices in the years ahead – some great, some not so good. But whatever they are, you can learn from them.” (Nina Grossman/The Observer)

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