Main photo: HHS grads Jack and Ryan Long with family members. Jack received the Stepping Stone Award of Merit and Ryan received the Huntsville High School Leadership in the Arts Award and the Ida May and Victor deRose Award (supplied)
With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, graduation ceremonies for local students couldn’t occur as they have in the past.
With a graduating class as large as Huntsville High School’s, staff had to get creative.
Students were given a time slot on one of two days last week when they were invited to enter the front of the school to pick up a bag containing the awards they had earned along with a gift and a graduation cap. Some of the HHS staff were waiting inside the doors to congratulate each student on their accomplishments.
“We had a lot of positive feedback from our grad pick-up days from both grads and their families,” said HHS teacher Jen Cooper. “Early on we surveyed grads to ask them how they wanted to be celebrated. We knew it was still important to mark the end of the year and give them some closure on their high school career.”
Students could be accompanied by just a few guests, and staff set up a live stream on YouTube for other family and friends who wanted to watch. The staff photographer was there to take photos of students and their guests, which are now available on the HHS website.
“It was a little sad for many staff to not get to see the grads in person,” said Cooper. “It’s not just a milestone for grads, but our staff loves seeing our students celebrate the success of all their hard work. Many staff members also watched the live stream so they could feel part of the celebration.”
“It felt a little bit challenging to not have the usual ceremony before summer, but we were still able to have [local realtor] Sue Morrison’s grad signs up in our front yards,” said Ryan Long (pictured above), who won the Leadership in the Arts award. “I’m happy that we still get to recognize all the graduates just like everyone else did.”
The 2019-2020 valedictorian was chosen through an all online process. To begin, students made nominations through an online survey and nominees then each wrote a letter of reflection on why they felt they best represented their graduating class. A group of teachers reviewed the letters, with names removed, and chose the top three. Those three students then each made a 30-second video and students voted for their favourite.
This year’s valedictorian is Aria Platts-Boyle. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Platts-Boyle wasn’t able to deliver her speech but will hopefully be able to do it at a later date as HHS plans to host an in-person ceremony in the fall if the Ontario government allows it.
“The class of 2020 is one who fights for what we care about—we are strong, hardworking, always up for a laugh, and we will ensure a better future,” said Platts-Boyle. “I’m exacted to be valedictorian because teens are often misrepresented, and I want to represent the class of 2020 in a way which shows their courage, strength, and dedication.”
“This has been an amazing graduating class. They were born during the changes brought about by 9/11 and are now graduating during a pandemic. They have lived through a lot already and time and time again have proven they can be resilient and persevere,” said Cooper.
You can find the full list of graduates and their awards here.
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