The largest graduating class in the history of Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI) celebrated their success with a special graduation on Friday, June 26.
The school held a drive-by parade for graduates on Friday afternoon. Teachers lined the sidewalk on 20th Street West and greeted each graduate before there was a chance for a photo in front of PACI.
Each student came in a vehicle and exited to walk the greeting route. They then received a sign with a gift on the back.
Teachers cheered and blew bubbles for each student as they walked the sidewalk, or in some cases, along the street accompanied by a decorated vehicle.
The class all acknowledged that the conclusion of the school year was unlike what they would have expected because of the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the school year.
“I would say I would probably remember mostly the end of the year and all of the stuff that we have had to deal with and how much it has changed,” Robin Johnston said.
“It is quite upsetting I don’t get the same grad as most but I will definitely remember it forever because it is so different,” Dayna Daigneault said.
Valedictorian Samira Warsame agreed.
“I think none of us expected school to be shut down and graduation is something that you dream of all of your school years and then being told that because of everything happening we are not going to have a proper ceremony like we have seen in past years and our graduate siblings have, it was really disappointing,” she explained.
Daigneault was looking forward to the second semester and the pandemic was heartbreaking to her.
“The school pandemic has definitely ruined the semester I was most excited for because it was my last one and I wanted to make the most of it and I had such high expectations for it only for this to happen but I am trying to make the most of it and I think everyone else is,” she said.
The students mentioned the importance of arts at the school, including Johnston finding her love for working backstage.
“I would have to say being in the Drama Club, the Drama Club was really a different thing for me. I had never really considered doing anything with that,” Johnston said.
Daigneault also remembered the arts and the family atmosphere.
“It feels like a big family because it is a smaller school and I really liked the dance program,” Daigneault said.
Johnston found a love for art because of attending PACI.
“I was asked by my teacher to do the lighting for the Drama Club performance that they were doing for the festival last year. So this year I decided to go back and I have been kind of mentoring other students to do the lighting and I was working on the backstage back crop and all of that this year,” she said.
Warsame thought being the largest class in history was important.
“This is a grad no one will forget and for PACI this year, we have the biggest graduating class, so it is really cool,” she said.
She explained that most years, the class is about 30 people.
Earlier in the morning, the class had a graduation by Zoom meeting which was later available on YouTube. The class were all presented their diplomas during the week leading up to graduating. This was special to Daigneault.
“It does feel more personal because we get to do things individually, I just got my diploma yesterday (Monday) and the principal gave it to me outside of the school,” she said.
During the video there was an opening prayer by Elder Liz Settee, video messages from Premier Scott Moe, Mayor Greg Dionne, Sask. Rivers trustee Michelle Vickers, Randy Emmerson and principal David Lokinger. Emmerson acknowledged all that was accomplished in the Supplementary Learning by teachers and students. He also acknowledged what could have been with the basketball team reaching regionals for the first time. Emmerson is an outgoing superintendent of Saskatchewan Rivers School Division and former principal of PACI.
The message to parents was by Marc Carle, response to students by parent Susie Carle, message to the teachers by Olivia Mitchell, response to students by teacher Evonne Garnett.
The graduates went by the school in four groups to give each of the 49 graduates a chance to be recognized.
In her address, Warsame acknowledged the journey that the class went. She explained that they were disappointed that it couldn’t be a normal grad with a march across the stage to receive diplomas and a grand march.
“It’s upsetting and disappointing and yet, regardless of that, I love how we have all kept our heads up and will make the most of our day. PACI graduates you are all so strong and resilient and you should all be proud of yourselves for reaching this milestone despite all of the hardships that you have faced. You have all finished high school and that is something no one can ever take away from you,” Warsame said.
She acknowledged the many memories including the annual Halloween Dance and how much support and understanding there was at their school. Warsame explained how everyone at the school from teachers to friends were special to her.
“The most important thing you should all remember is to be yourselves. I know that you have probably heard this a million times but it is true and it is important,” she said.
The entire event was a group effort with many teachers and staff lending their talents to get the parade. Perfect. Warsame acknowledged how special the teachers were to their time at PACI.
“The great thing about my school is that we have really caring teachers that most of us are really close with so I know that they have tried their absolute best to give the best grad possible so I am really looking forward to it. I know it will be different,” she said.
Her best memories of the school was the teachers.
“I have a good relationship with every single teacher at that school and I will never forget them,” Warsame added.
Johnston started off at Wesmor in Prince Albert for Grade 9 and 10 then moved to La Ronge and began Grade 11 at Churchill and then moved back and her friend asked her to go to PACI while Warsame and Daigneault each attended the school her entire career.
The class all had positive relationships with each other.
“I am friends with a lot of the graduates actually and obviously my close friends I am graduating with,” Warsame said.
“They were a pretty okay group, I didn’t really spend too much time with my class necessarily because most of my friends were a grade younger than me. Most of the people in my class that I did hang out with they were pretty cool we all usually got along pretty well and everybody was really nice all of the time,” Johnston said.
“The Class of 2020 the people they are all pretty nice to me and I feel like I am friends with quite a lot of them and I am at least graduating with someone I am close to so I am glad,” Daigneault said.