Drive in graduation makes more memories for PACI graduates

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Graduates from PACI descend the stair to the ceremony during their graduation ceremony on Friday at PACI.

The PACI Grad Class of 2021 held a special drive-in ceremony on the school grass to celebrate the end of one era and the start of another.

Principal David Lokinger said they began planning for a unique graduation celebration around May 5. The goal was to give students and their families the best send-off possible.

“The way that we were originally wanting to do our grad, we couldn’t do,” Lokinger explained. “(We were told) we have too many grads, which was a really nice problem to have–41 grads coming that just graduated.”

Lokinger saluted the 2021 graduates and their parents for really coming together to make the event happen.

Governor General’s Award winner and Valedictorian Tekla Mattila thought the entire ceremony was memorable.

“It meant a lot because you look at other schools and they have it pretty much entirely virtual,” Mattila said. “To be able to actually see everyone’s faces in person and be with your family and have your family actually physically there, it means a lot. It’s just a very nice send off.”

With cars spread across the lawn, the school found a way to compress the Grand March, cap and gown ceremony and awards all into one ceremony.

Lokinger said they were still able to keep all the grad traditions they wanted. It just took a bit of extra planning.

“We hope that our students had a great day and they feel that they were celebrated in a way that works for them ,” he said. “We are really proud of all of the work that everyone did.”

There was a moment of silence before the ceremony for the recently found residential school children in Saskatchewan and British Columbia and each graduate and staff member wore an orange ribbon.

The event opened with a prayer from Elder Liz Settee, who congratulated all of the graduates noting how much work they had done at PACI in 2020-2021.

The graduates then received their diplomas and awards in the order that vehicles arrived with the broadcast being available on FM radio. A n intermission followed the presentation of diplomas so students could prepare for the Grand March, while the student band Heartwarming Orphans performed.

“We hope that this one was one that was really special to our students. We knew that we didn’t want to do something where our students couldn’t be together. So (we had) the little things like having the band play and then the awards,” Lokinger said.

Mattila, who came to the school in Grade 10 explained that one of the best memories of PACI was travelling to a drama festival after first arriving at the school.

“It was a very nice experience because it was just me and a group of people I knew very well and we ended up getting runner up for best performance,” Mattila said. “It was just a wonderful time.”

Mattlia also gained some fame this year by making bags and sleeping mats for the homeless as part of a crocheted project with teacher Kyilie Emmerson

“She was just supportive throughout the whole thing,” Mattila remembered. “It was just something nice to do and to see support from everyone else.”

In her Valedictory address, Mattila also touched on how easy it was to make friends at PACI after first arriving.Intially, Mattila thought everyone would already have their own peer group, but everyone was warm and welcoming.

“Within my first hour I had already met someone who was kind and accepting. I remember goofing around in guitar class and playing Cat’s Cradle in homeroom, thank you Serenity Clark-Elder for immediately making me feel welcome.”

Mattila also remembered the kindness of graduate Autumn Smith in History class and others being kind in English class.

“Tiny acts of kindness are arguably the single most beautiful thing in the world. It is amazing how doing the smallest little and they can make someone’s day and they will remember it. I remember in Grade 11 when I dyed my hair Bonnie Bader said I love your hair, not just the colour bit the style and everything,” Mattila said.

Mattila went on to share other stories of how small acts of kindness can mean so much to people.

“As we expand our horizons, we expand the impact we have, everyone here has the ability to brighten someone’s day, every day. If you like someone’s sweater tell them. Smile at the person you see on the bus every day. Hold the door open for someone. Compliment someone’s art. Wear what you want and inspire someone else to do the same. Little acts of kindness are simple and can make someone else’s day.”

Mattila also reminded graduates to be kind to themselves too.

“Let yourself be passionate about the things you love even if others find them stupid. Let yourself make mistakes. Graduation provides the opportunity to break free of your shell and cause change in the world.”

Mattila concluded by reminding the graduates of their value.

“Everyone here will impact something. Everyone will impact someone and that means we are worth something, regardless of if you have accomplished anything yet, regardless of if people think you are grass or wheat. Go into the world, love others and love yourself.”

Next year, Mattila plans to pursue a degree in counselling psychology at the University of Saskatchewan.

This wasn’t just a send-off for the Grad Class of 2021 either. Retiring secretary Patricia Bader was also at her final graduation. She told graduates she completely enjoyed her time at PACI.

“This is my last hurrah and this is the best school that I have ever worked in, with the most wonderful staff and the best Principal and Vice Principal I have ever worked with,” she said.

Friday’s festivities also included a virtual presentation before the ceremony, which included a greeting from trustee Michelle Vickers of the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division, a response from the families by Allison MacLeod, a speech to the staff by graduate Norina McKay, a response to the grads from teacher Ryan Hughes, guest speakers Evonne Garnett and Marc Carle, a message from Lokinger and a slideshow.