It was a different kind of graduation for students at Carlton Comprehensive High School on Tuesday. The ceremony combined elements of the 2021 graduation with some more familiar traditions as graduates crossed the front steps at the school to receive their diplomas in front of family and friends.
The day opened with a YouTube livestream leading to the festivities that included the speech from Valedictorian Neven Grujic. Grujic was pleased to finally see the day arrive.
“(It’s) just a big triumph, (and) really a lot of hard work finally paying off,” he said of finally graduating.
The YouTube pre-show also included greetings from Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board chair Barry Hollick.
Tuesday’s ceremony wasn’t your typical cap-in-gown approach, but Grujic was in favour of it.
“I think this is really good,” he said. “It’s really personalized and I think every student gets their opportunity to shine.”
Grujic said he was surprised to hear that he was selected as Valedictorian, although it did change his plans.
“When I heard the news I was just very relieved,” he explained. “I thought that I was just going to kind of leave Carlton quietly.”
The class of 2022 is the first to have some semblance of a normal graduation after COVID-19 was declared.
Students who crossed the stage on Tuesday were in Grade 10 when COVID first hit Saskatchewan. Grujic said it was an unusual experience, but the class doubled down and kept working.
“Everyone came together,” he said. “All of the staff just planned and they did what they could. They made the best of it.”
He concluded by saying that he was just happy overall.
During the ceremony, Janelle Scott was surprised with being presented the Governor General’s Award. When principal Jeff Court and Hollick presented her with the award she burst into tears.
“I did not see it coming,” Scott said. “I always worked hard and I have always done my best. It just means a lot that I was pretty much one of the best.
“I had no idea, my parents did not tell me,” she added.
Like Grujic, Scott said she liked the drive-thru ceremony setup in front of the Carlton main doors.
“I didn’t really know what Grad was going to look like today, but I’m really glad that there was a good amount of people that were there to be able to watch and just cheer people on,” she said. “It was a lot more intimate than normal so that was really fun.”
Court said the idea for the unique setup came from their desire to promote the school’s goals and values about families, relationships, equity and kindness.
“We wanted to make sure that we continued on with those values in a celebration that made sense, and then also still having a gathering of a Grand March and doing some of those traditional ones as well,” he explained. “Being able to do both things and have it feel this way, it just created such a cool, cool atmosphere,” Court said.
There was some streamlining this year after the ceremony went all day in 2021. Families could be present for the ceremony this year as well.
For each student, teachers read the announcement of the graduate and included memories and each student’s future plan. Grujic, for example, chose teacher Kristyn Nemish as his speaker.
“It’s one of those focuses on the student and the relationship between people that they are connected with here at Carlton,” Court said. “The other neat part is we have the kids sign up with their peer groups and we try to match those as best as we possibly could rather than going alphabetical.
“(It’s) an order that allowed them to come through this event with their friends in a way that makes sense,” Court added.
Grujic had a tough time choosing his best memory of attending Carlton.
“That’s tough because there are four years to boil down. All of the lunch hours with friends and definitely just walking around the halls and just talking and then studying in teacher’s rooms at lunch,” he said. “It’s kind of weird, but I enjoyed it.”
Meanwhile, Scott had fond memories of the many clubs that she was part of, among other things.
“(There are) so many things,” she said. “I am so grateful for the French teachers there and French Club, I was in Model UN. We went to the St. Mary’s Conference this year, I am also in Beam Team to study at the CLS so that was all really awesome. All of those (things) kind of stood out this year.”
Both Grujic and Scott will be starting their post-secondary education at the University of Saskatchewan Prince Albert Campus.
“I will be doing all four years of nursing here in PA. That will be really nice, save a bunch on rent so looking forward to that,” Grujic explained.
“As of right now I am going to the U of S, I am going into Education in Prince Albert for my first year and we will see where the road takes me,” Scott added.
The day concluded with the Grand March in the CPAC Gymnasium. This included the speeches by Grujic and the Principal’s Address from Court
While some Prince Albert schools returned to full traditional ceremonies in 2022, Carlton may stick with their new formula again next year. Court said he wants the format to be part of a conversation as planning begins.
“It’s something as a staff that we really appreciate,” he said. “We appreciate what this looks like. We believe in it. We believe in the relationships and the intimate feel that this has. Families get full access to the photos and get to come right up to the stage and hear the messaging and all of that, so it doesn’t feel institutional. It feels like a cohesive group.”
The Carlton Grad was also streamed online on the school’s YouTube account.