Publication:

Valley Journal Advertiser - 2021-07-20

Data:

Windsor high school graduates 244 students

GRADUATION

CAROLE MORRIS-UNDERHILL VALLEY JOURNAL-ADVERTISER carole.morris-underhill @saltwire.com @CMUnderhill

The 2020-21 school year was filled with triumphs and struggles, breakthroughs and setbacks, starts and stops. But whatever challenges they faced, the 244 graduating students from Avon View High School persevered — a trait that the class valedictorian hopes the students will carry with them into the future. “I just hope that everyone does well in life after high school and everyone stays motivated to do the things that they want to,” said Lola Velden, Avon View High School’s 2021 class valedictorian. “Life is going to throw you curveballs and things are going to get hard. But, I just hope everyone keeps trudging along, no matter what gets thrown at them and they’re successful in that way,” the 18-year-old said in a phone interview. Velden said her classmates were able to attend the majority of the school year inperson, which was a positive. She said switching to online learning amid increased COVID-19 restrictions this spring was difficult, but she was glad to be able to resume in-person learning for the last few weeks of her senior year. “It was hard once we had to go back online in April but with motivation, I made it work and I think many others did too,” said Velden. “All in all, it was a great way to end off (the year). It wasn’t what we were all expecting but it was a good year.” The Summerville student, who played on the varsity volleyball team, intends to pursue post-secondary education at Dalhousie University in the fall. She wants to become a pediatric allergist. “I really enjoy working with kids and I’m someone who suffers from quite a few anaphylactic allergies, so I think having that connection has made me really want to help others with the same thing,” said Velden. Although Velden was nervous starting at Avon View in Grade 9 due to her serious anaphylactic allergy to peanuts, she wanted to have the quintessential high school experience. She worked with school officials and said the school custodians, staff, and classmates helped make a safe learning environment — not just for her, but for other students at the school facing other serious allergies. Velden presented her valedictory address during a virtual graduation ceremony for the students. In it, she thanks everyone who helped shape their school experience — from parents and relatives to classmates and teachers, custodians and bus drivers. She commended the students for their resiliency during the worldwide pandemic — a challenge that started in 2020 and continues to this day. “While we have all arrived here today at this final destination of our high school education, we must recognize that we each have travelled a different path to get here. It doesn’t matter what part of our region you come from. Each of us has experienced struggles, challenges and joys differently from our fellow classmates,” she told the graduating class. “It is through these experiences that our stories have been written. Our families, however they may be composed, our cultures, our choices; good or bad, have helped to shape these stories,” she continued. “And while two years of COVID has been a difficult part of our story — with cancelled trips; missing the opportunity to put that jersey on one last time; our inability to gather for parties and celebrations — we have not allowed it to be our only story. Instead, we have found resiliency in the challenge and have made it to today where we can celebrate our successes.” A special drive-thru graduation ceremony was held at the end of June that saw the students line the street leading to the high school in Windsor, holding placards indicating their future plans, as the community drove by, honking and cheering for their continued success in life. A special prom was also hosted and organized by one of the parents, Leanne Myles, a senior mortgage advisor at Clinton Wilkins Mortgage Team, with help from volunteers and students. Myles said they had to split the parade into two sessions to meet provincial COVID health and safety guidelines. Interested grads purchased prom tickets, allowing Myles the opportunity to firm up attendance numbers. The event featured everything from celebrity cameos wishing the grads well, to a dancefloor with a DJ spinning tunes. Two photographers and a videographer were on hand to capture special moments. Myles, who footed the bill, said it was worth it to see the smiles on the kids’ faces after successfully navigating such a strange school year. For the incoming Grade 12s, Velden recommends making the most out of their senior year. “Get involved in school and take part in as many activities as you can because your senior year is one thing that you want to be able to say you remembered or took part in. Do as much as you can within the school and outside the school and just work hard to say you finished off strong,” she said. As for her message to fellow graduates, she said where they came from doesn’t limit the success they can achieve or who they can become. “I would like to remind my fellow graduates that where you’ve come from has helped shape who you are, but that it does not define or limit who you can become. Who you become is entirely up to you.”

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