Sask Rivers Distance Learning Centre celebrates first in person graduation

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald The graduating class for 2022 from the Saskatchewan Rivers Distance Learning Centre posed for a photo during their ceremony on Friday at Plaza 88.

Just because you are an online school doesn’t mean you can’t celebrate a graduation in a traditional way.

The Saskatchewan Rives School Division Distance Learning Centre (DLC) proved that on Friday afternoon with an in-person graduation ceremony at Plaza 88 in Prince Albert.

The school is in its second year. Instead of a Valedictorian the DLC had a student speaker in Maria Donato, who said the DLC helped her grow as a student and a person.

“At first I was nervous but the more I went I became more confident,” she explained. “I trusted more in myself, and the more I went the more I relied on myself and the more I progressed as a student.

“Going to the DLC taught me so much about myself, not just with education.”

Last year, students took part in graduation ceremonies at their home schools. The Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division created the DLC for the 2020-21 school year. The new school served students and families who were reluctant about in-person learning during the pandemic.

DLC Principal Carrie Grant-Walker explained that it was amazing to be able to host a graduation ceremony.

“Many of them have been with us for two years,” she said. “We have worked really hard to establish a successful online program for them and they have done their part to be successful online.

“It’s a huge accomplishment to do schooling online. Those who have been with us for two years and those who have been with us just this year worked really hard to get to this moment, and we are just absolutely thrilled to be able to do this for them.”

This was the first in person graduation because last year students took part in graduation ceremonies at their home schools.

“Last year we had graduates from all over Sask Rivers School Division and so many of them has strong ties to their home communities and their home schools,” Grant-Walker explained. “Those graduates took part in their home school community graduations although they were taking classes all the time with us, so this year is our first official DLC graduation ceremony.”

Donato said the family initially chose the DLC as a precaution during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, she later realized the school had a number of additional benefits.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Student Speaker Maria Donato addressed the crowd at Plaza 88 during the Saskatchewan Rivers Distance Learning Centre 2022 Graduation on Friday.

“When I was in the DLC my grades were going up, but also I was still connected with my friends,” she said.

“I focused more on my education when I was in the DLC.”

There were two awards presented, including a $500 scholarship from the Prince Albert Area Teachers Association, which recognized a student who exemplified the values of the DLC. Donato received the scholarship, and said she was grateful for the recognition.

“I was glad that I got a scholarship,” she said. “When I got a scholarship I was proud of myself because I’m capable of things that other people are capable of too.”

The Governor Generals Academic Medal was presented to graduate Shaz Ali by Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of education chair Barry Hollick.

Following the entrance of the graduates there were opening remarks by master of ceremonies Tom Hazzard, an address by Grant-Walker and a speech by teacher Lori Amy.

The 15 graduates included Donato, Ali, Kylie Bird, Makayla Buchanan, Jace Cline, Kate Felix, Sooji Ham, Madison McMaster, Tenleah Opoonechaw, Jasmine Sasakamoose, Dikota Sewap, Tyshaun Simpso, Frank Slowenko, Maksim Vorobyev and Jordan Waiter. Of the 15 graduates, 11 attended the ceremony in person.

Donato plans to enter a nursing program at the Prince Albert Campus of the University of Saskatchewan. Other students’ future plans include accessing post-secondary programs in computer science, cooking, health care, business administration and more.

After the ceremony, families were invited to take photos with the graduates in cap and gown and have some refreshments.

The school will add more classes to its offerings for the 2022-23 school year.

It is also working on delivering dual credit courses, which give students the option of earning both a high school credit and a university credit.

Students can register as full-time students in Grades 7 to 12 for 2022-23. As well, students in grades 10 to 12 attending other Saskatchewan Rivers schools have the option of picking up extra classes from the DLC.

“I think it’s just important that people realize that there is an alternative to in person learning,” Grant-Walker said. “The DLC is here to stay and there are plenty of opportunities for students in a variety of situations. We offer programming for students all across Sask Rivers Public School Division.”