Sask Rivers DLC celebrates success at final graduation ceremony

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald The final graduating class of the Saskatchewan Rivers Distance Learning Centre (DLC) posed for a picture following their ceremony at Plaza 88 on Friday.

The Saskatchewan Rivers School Division Distance Learning Centre (DLC) held their second and final in-person graduation ceremony at Plaza 88 in Prince Albert on Friday.

The school is closing because of the new Sask DLC that’s starting up in the fall.

Graduate Rebecca Grimard came to the school from Shellbrook because the closings of schools due to COVID-19 was creating a difficult situation for her and her family.

“It’s kind of weird with being a DLC students,” she said. “I used to go to (school in) Shellbrook, but because we were getting shut down every couple of weeks, it was hard. My mom does have an autoimmune disease, she’s got Crohn’s, so I had to eventually move on to online because we were getting shut down so much and if I caught it I would hurt my mom.”

Although Grimard began attending the DLC for personal reasons, she said the school made a positive difference in her academic life.

“It was also helping me because when I turned to being online student, I actually turned into a way better student than I was,” she said. “I could blossom out rather than (be) what I was in a classroom. I felt more comfortable in this area, rather than being in a high school classroom with 30 different people.”

Grimard said her grades improved dramatically after changing to the DLC. She’s sad to see the DLC close.

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Graduate Maxine Bear is presented a diploma by Principal Jenna Cross during the Saskatchewan Rivers Distance Learning Centre (DLC) graduation ceremony on Friday at Plaza 88.

“I think it should be an opportunity for everyone because many different students have different attributes and they come out better,” she said. “I found mine coming into being as an online student. It definitely helped me a lot better than what I was.”

Grimard plans on attending Sask Polytech Prince Albert campus for two years for Integrated Resource Management and, if everything goes according to plan, attending the University of Regina for a degree in Environmental Biology. She said that if the DLC didn’t exist, these opportunities would not have existed for her.

“I was honestly on the bridge of dropping out when I was in Grade 10 and now I’m graduated,” Grimard said.

Her best memory of the DLC was the support she received from teachers.

“I wasn’t very good at math (and) I have really bad social anxiety, so it definitely helped me when they were there for me,” she said. “For example Mrs. (Kim) Simpson and Mrs. (Lori) Amy were a big help to me in leading to me being a graduate.”

In the school’s first year in 2021, students took part in graduation ceremonies at their home schools. In 2022, the school hosted their first in-person graduation.

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 Jenna Cross said the final graduation ceremony showed just how successful the school was.

“Having 26 graduates today just tells us the story of our year and it being such a success,” she said. “I mean, we’re so proud, and to have that many students graduate today knowing some of their struggles it’s really a remarkable story.”

Cross also echoed Grimard in thanking the teachers for the students.

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. Grimard received the scholarship, and said she was grateful for the recognition.

Instead of a Valedictorian the DLC has a student speaker, this year it was graduate Eric Levesque.

The Governor Generals Academic Medal was presented to graduate Ada Clark by Saskatchewan Rivers School Division board of education vice chair Alan Nunn.

Cross also echoed Grimard in thanking the teachers for the students’ success.

“Our teachers did such a good job of forming relationships with their students,” Cross said. “I mean, it’s interesting, I saw the grads here today, and I know them all. It’s that piece because we’re distance (learning), but we’ve really done a good job to connect with them and (make) a lot of one on one connections with those students.

“I think those one on one connections and relationships that they formed (were) supportive, and then we found out how to help them.”

Cross said that one word to describe the students journey was perseverance. She said they were thrilled to end the year with 26 graduates.

“There’s no better way to end than to celebrate student success,” she said. “This is what we’re about. This is celebrating their success and it’s amazing.”

Following the entrance of the graduates there were opening remarks by master of ceremonies Kin Simpson, addresses by Nunn, superintendent for the DLC Garette Tebay and Principal Jenna Cross.

The 26 graduates included Grimard, Clark, Levesque, Maxine Bear, Kaylee-Ann Bloom, Dakota Bouvier, Shea Buhler, Kaide Bushman, Coltin Chicoine, Ava DeGagne, Payton Dewhurst, Nicholas Dreaver-Okemow, Cyrus Drygeese, Judah Dudenhoffer, Amada Foy, Jakob Ferguson-Dodge, Jorrie Geering-Ebach, Zane Johnson, Jayden Marchildon, Kiara Mitchell, Rhaya Nieviadomy, Kaitlin Petruk, Braydon Phillip, Tylee Sylvestre, Mark Vorobyov and David Weberg.

In preparation for the ceremony, graduates shared their plans for the future. Those plans include being an electrician, flying helicopters, working as a pharmacy technician, environmental biology, heavy equipment operation and more.

Not all graduates listed chose to attend the ceremony.

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