In June, thousands of students will make important transitions as they complete post-secondary studies, high school, middle grade, and even kindergarten. However, due to COVID-19 those students will not be able to make the ceremonial walk across a stage or celebrate these milestones with their circle of friends and family. Instead, celebrations will be held in the students’ homes, if they are celebrated at all.
It is Andrea Gillespie’s goal to make something special happen for these students. She sent an email and a tweet to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau asking if he and his wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, would consider giving Canadian graduates a national commencement address this spring.
“Obama is doing a national commencement in the United States and I thought since Trudeau has been doing such a great job spreading positivity during COVID, I thought it would be amazing for him to do a national commencement for high school and university graduates, Grade 8s and even senior kindergarteners,” Gillespie said.
Gillespie has been an educator for 32 years. She worked as a principal in Huntsville, superintendent at TLDSB, and was seconded in 2018 to the Ministry of Education where she worked in student achievement as a field team leader.
She is also the mother of Alexis Berry, a university student who will be graduating from the University of Ottawa with a Bachelor of Social Sciences in Conflict Studies and Human Rights this year.
“Their June 8 commencement was cancelled and that was supposed to be held at the Shaw Centre in Ottawa,” Gillespie said. She posted Berry’s grad photo on Facebook and has received numerous messages of congratulations and encouragement but would like something more unique for her daughter in these unique times.
Since she sent out the tweet on May 5, it has been retweeted over 250 times.
“Lots of people are looking for messages of hope and optimism,” Gillespie said, adding many university graduates are facing an uncertain future with the economic conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
She is hoping Sophie Grégoire Trudeau would add to the speech as well since she has done such amazing work with women.
Gillespie and her family have been avid watchers of what they nicknamed JTtv, Trudeau’s daily address to the nation. “I was touched the first time Trudeau talked directly to youth and children,” she said.
As of publication time, Gillespie had not heard from the PM’s office, but is hoping that she will and that Trudeau will do something very Canadian for this year’s grads.
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