The largest graduating class in the history of Ecole St. Mary High School in Prince Albert can’t wait to take on the world.
Principal Mark Phaneuf saluted the leadership of the Class of 2021 in his remarks during St. Mary’s online grad ceremony. Phaneuf said the class showed dedication and leadership needed to be the leaders of tomorrow.
“Through our daily interactions you embraced your responsibility to yourself and those around you as did the rest of the staff and students in this school,” Phaneuf told graduates. “COVID was going to happen through the school and community through the fault of no one. We are battling something we cannot see. When you look back you will see we did this together.
“The care that you showed for each other radiated out into our community and when I talked to people about our students, our pride in each and every one of you, and gratitude toward each and every one of you as a group, is the message I repeated over and over.”
He said his respect for them would grow as he ages, and added that the class would always be remembered for their leadership.
“The leaders of tomorrow they are the graduating class of Ecole St. Mary High School, I say that confidently, proudly and without hesitation,” Phaneuf said.
Phaneuf’s remarks were included as part of a three-hour virtual graduation ceremony streamed on YouTube Wednesday morning.
The ceremony also included pre-recorded footage of students picking up their diploma in cap and gown, speeches from dignitaries, awards and reflections from students.
Dignitaries included new Bishop Stephen Hero on behalf of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Prince Albert, Prince Albert Mayor Greg Dionne on behalf of the city and Prince Albert Catholic School Division board chair Suzanne Stubbs on behalf of the division.
Handing out the diplomas to the 235 graduates took nearly two hours. Phaneuf said it took 21 hours to film that part of the ceremony.
The theme for the graduation was “You are the light of the World,” and the three Class of 2021 Valedictorians, Seth LeMoal, Spencer Dmytruk and Grayson Tourney, were quick to thank teachers, coaches and staff for helping them achieve what they did in an unpredictable year.
“We appreciate you, we love you and we applaud you for pushing us to be the best we could be academically, athletically and spiritually,” Lemoal said.
“We have been thrown into life a lot harder and faster than we ever could have imagined. We have missed out on our senior sports, clubs and other activities. Further to this we have simply missed out on valuable time with our friends. But graduates I don’t feel cheated and I don’t feel spiteful,” he added.
LeMoal looked back at coming to the high school and being intimidated by seniors and teachers. He remembered thinking at the time that graduation was so far away.
“In a blink of an eye we are completely different people than the ones we were four years ago and we have all grown so much in this time,” he said. “We have met friends that are now family and we have had experiences that are now memories.”
LeMoal said that he was reminded what a great privilege these things were by their absence.
“I think this last year has just shown us that if we could persevere through all of the difficulties and adversity that we faced thus far than we are more than prepared to take on whatever life throws our way. We can and should cherish our memories but we can’t waste our time dwelling on the could haves or should have beens. Instead we should keep our eyes, hearts and minds set on the bright futures that lie ahead of us,” he said.
Tourney, who delivered the Salutatory Address, echoed those thoughts during his own remarks. He said the world is full of unknowns and maybes, but he came across a line that aptly describes it while studying physics and watching the film Interstellar. The line came from a Dylan Thomas poem “Do not go gentle into that good night”.
Tourney said it stuck with him because it references the end of something great, like four years of classes at Ecole St. Mary.
“The line means a great deal more when we look at our place in the world right now,” Tourney said. “It is one of going into the unknown with our chins held high and prepared for whatever is next. So as we leave you all today, potentially parting ways with some of you for the last time, may we look to the future and not feel any sort of dread about forging ahead into the real world, but instead excitement about the possibility to move forward into far greater things.”
He said that the class has reached a fork in a road and will travel to find new careers and whatever life may throw at the class.
“Let us not go gently, let us make waves in our field, change the lives of those around us and leave the world a better place than it was to begin with. As we leave here today fear not as you travel through life, let your light shine and go wherever God takes you, but do not go gently,” Tourney said.
Dmytruk looked back on the past and saluted parents and families during his portion of the three part address. He talked about all of the things that the class went through as they grew up, and said without love and support, none of them would be where they are.
“Through laughter, tears, good times and bad you were always there to guide us. You drove us to our first day of Kindergarten, packed countless lunches and helped explain many homework assignments. You were the first teachers of our faith and ignited the light of Christ that has guided each of us. As parents you boosted our self confidence by encouraging us, believing in us and always being easy to impress,” Dmytruk said.
“Today you get to sit back and admire your hard work as we graduate high school and transition into adult life,” he added.
Wednesday’s stream also included an awards ceremony. Grayson Tourny was awarded the Govern General Scholarship and the Governor General’s Medal.