PACI Class of 2023 strived for the best

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald The graduates of the PACI Class of 2023 celebrated their graduation by tossing their hats in the air at the end of their ceremony at the EA Rawlinson Centre on Wednesday.

The Class of 2023 at Prince Albert Collegiate Institute (PACI) celebrated their graduation at the E.A. Rawlinson Centre on Wednesday.

Like every graduating class of 2023 the PACI graduates started high school during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Valedictorian Sheilina Cote came to PACI at the start of Grade 9 and said that the pandemic did not affect the class because of the way things worked out.

“It was kind of crazy at first,” Cote said. “We were really lucky that it hit us only in Grade 9 and not the year where credits were important. Right after we got back from the pandemic in Grade 10 was when we were back in school. That’s when we focus on our credits, so it didn’t really affect us as much as it would the previous graduates.”

Although the pandemic didn’t have a major impact on their education, it did affect other areas. Cote said it made the Class of 2023 more passionate about having a great graduation.

“I feel like we did a lot more this year,” she said. “We wanted to make sure we had the best graduation and made sure this year was the best, so everybody helped out.”

The pandemic also helped unite the class in their senior year.

“There was a lot of people that I never talked to really before in the earlier years of high school that I talk to now and I’m just like, ‘wow, that’s really cool,” Cote said.

Her best memories involved the PACI Dance Program and teacher Alicia Wotherspoon. Cote was in the More Than a Room showcase in May, and said the whole dance program was a great experience.

“The previous years were just off because of COVID, so I didn’t make it till that last year,” she said. “I really liked it. I don’t really have a lot of dance experience, but Miss Wotherspoon is incredible.”

There were 35 graduates this year and the smaller class at PACI was another aspect that Cote enjoyed.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Valedictorian Sheilina Cote addressed the PACI Class of 2023 at their graduation on Wednesday at the EA Rawlinson Centre.

“If it was 300, I definitely wouldn’t be the Valedictorian,” she said. “I love smaller schools. I picked this school because it’s a smaller community. I grew up in smaller areas, so I feel like the community is a lot better.

“The teachers have a more one on one relationship with you so they can help you a lot more. They care a lot more about your academics and your personal life too, so if you’re struggling in something they’ll help you out.”

During the ceremony, Cote was presented the Governor General’s Award by Saskatchewan Rivers trustee Grant Gustafson. She was also surprised to be named Valedictorian.

“I just totally didn’t expect to be the Valedictorian this year. I did make sure I pushed hard to get good grades, but I didn’t think I’d come up to the top,” she said.

Cote is planning on attending Wilfred Laurier University to become a teacher.

The grads entered to a drum performance by Raining Thunder. Elder Pearl Morin said a prayer to open the ceremony.

Education Minister Dustin Duncan had a video greeting to the graduates. Gustafson brought greetings from the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division. Trina Joseph brought greetings from the School Community Council (SCC).

The salute to the parents was done by Jalen Laliberte with a response by his father Jamie Laliberte.

The salute to the staff was done by Mackenzie Belair and Will McLoy with a response by teacher Leanne Jordan.

Principal Dave Lokinger and vice principal Jodi Honch presented the diplomas.

As each graduate received their diploma Lokinger said “you’re graduated’ after they flipped their tassel.

There was also a special performance by graduate Marissa Villeneuve and music teacher Mike Mogg.

The ceremony was emceed by Eli Lafond and Nesslin McDonald.

During the ceremony, there were several awards and scholarships presented. Cote received the Paper Excellence Community Scholarship, University Women’s Club Scholarship, Bonnie and Garth Hryniuk Resiliency Award and Aaron Family Female Award.

Graduate Mackenzie Belair was presented the Rotary Club of Prince Albert Citizenship Award, Kim Tadei LeadershiP Award, PACI Alumni Association Award and PACI Class of 1953 Participation Award.

Graduate Paige Smith received the Greta Hughes Drama Scholarship and PACI Dance Program Scholarship.

Brendan Daylight received the Outstanding Academic Achievement Award and J.M. Cuelenaere Public Library Award.

Jaedon Smith received the Mont St. Joseph Foundation Values Scholarship and Prince Albert Elks Most Improved Male Award.

The afternoon ceremony closed with a speech by Lokinger. The Grand March took place Wednesday evening at the Rawlinson Centre.