Carlton Class of 2023 celebrates perseverance

Daily Herald File Photo A Carlton graduate ascends the stairs after receiving their diploma in June, 2023. The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division is pleased with the improvement in graduation rates in the division.

The new tradition for graduation at Carlton Comprehensive High School continued for the Class of 2023.

The ceremony began on the steps of the school where graduates crossed over to receive their diplomas in front of family and they have the past two years.

The graduating class was in Grade 9 when the COVID-19 pandemic began and Valedictorian Ella Kirkland’s speech focused on the class’ perseverance.

“In Grade 9 we were straight into COVID and then this senior year has really been our first year back to normal,” Kirkland said. “Obviously, after COVID anything seems like more (normal). No, it’s just nice to get back to in-person classes and being able to ask questions and not have to do everything all through Zoom and things like that.”

During the ceremony, Kirkland was surprised with the Governor General’s Award, which was presented by principal Jeff Court and Superintendent and Saskatchewan Rivers vice chair Alan Nunn.

She said afterwards she was shocked to receive the award.

Kirkland’s best memories of Carlton came from the many clubs she had the chance to be a part of.

“I have so many,” she said. “I’ve been lucky enough to be part of a few clubs, like our scientific research club called Beam Team, where we go to the CLS. We got to tour it this year, which was super interesting. Last year we got to do the whole project and for people who like science, that was just amazing. It’s such a cool process.”

Kirkland also went to the Skills Canada National competition in Winnipeg for baking.

“That was crazy being able to go nationals. It was just so fun. I was so excited and lucky that I got to participate.”

Kirkland said the number of clubs was one of the school’s major selling points, and one of the highlights of her time at Carlton.

“They have so many,” she said. “You can find your interests and you can find what you like. There are so many shops you can be a part of.”

She was also part of the Model UN, which was hosted by Carlton this year after a few years at Ecole St. Mary.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Valedictorian Ella Kirkland addressed the Carlton Comprehensive High School Class of 2023 in the CPAC Gymnasium on Tuesday.

“Because of COVID again, we missed a few years, but last year we got to do one at Saint Mary’s and this year we got to host,” she said. “It was much larger … and it was very fun. It was just smaller, just coming back from COVID when everybody just didn’t know about it, and now it’s like we’re getting back to normal. The numbers are starting to get bigger, clubs are starting to get large.”

Kirkland added that with clubs expanding, that helps to build up school spirit.

“We also did bands this year,” Kirkland said. “We got to finally get to a band trip after three years…. Our high school experience has been COVID, so this was our first year with a band trip.”

Kirkland is planning to attend the Prince Albert campus of the University of Saskatchewan next year.

“I’m just looking to go into chemistry. I’ll be here first year doing arts sciences at the University of Saskatchewan,” she said.

Tuesday’s grad also marked an ending of sorts for principal Jeff Court, who is moving into a new role as superintendent at the Education Centre next school yet. Kirkland said she hadn’t interacted much with him because of the pandemic until she started preparing for her address, but was grateful for his support.

“It’s been nice to have him looking over my speech and all that for this last year,” she said.

Last year 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.

With all of the families and friends present for the ceremony on the steps the afternoon felt like a street fair. On their way to check in to walk the red carpet students could pose for pictures and have some fun.

As has also become tradition for each student, teachers read the announcement of the graduate and included memories and each student’s future plan. Teachers who affected students’ lives also posed with each graduate.

The day concluded with the Grand March in the CPAC Gymnasium. This included the speeches by Kirkland, Nunn and Court.