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KDHS grads celebrate the future, while reflecting on the past

Kingsville District High School’s graduates celebrated the past four-years of learning, and were ushered into their futures, via an online ceremony last Thursday evening, as social distancing regulations are kept in place due to the Coronavirus.

  Principal Bill Toews welcomed everyone to a time of recognition and celebration of all the graduates have accomplished.

  “While each of your stories is unique, the choice you made to attend Kingsville District High School had brought our collective paths together - and I am grateful for this opportunity to applaud your hard work and perseverance,” he said.

  “You have shown a strength and tenacity that I know will keep you in good stead for years to come. The past few months have been difficult, not only for our Kingsville community, but for millions around the world. And yet, here you are, soon to be graduates - despite the challenges that few of us ever imagined,” Toews added.

  Toews said he is honored to be principal of this local high school, and that the graduates should be tremendously proud of themselves, and of the friends, family, and loved ones who have supported their efforts, dreams, and accomplishments along the way.

  He added that midway through this schoolyear, students were thrown a curveball because of COVID-19. Things like prom, Mr. Gelinas’s trip to the Bruce Peninsula, one last sports season, perhaps a Friday in June spent at Seacliff Beach, and, of course, an in-person graduation ceremony, were cancelled.

  “Certainly, this is not the way you envisioned the last few months of your grade 12 year. While we are unable to meet together, what remains true, is that this graduation marks a passage into adulthood; the time when you begin to take charge of your own life. A time when you begin to decide what’s important to you. What you wish to study, the kind of career you want to pursue, and what values you want to live by,” Toews said.

  “With so much uncertainty, this is your generation’s world to shape. I trust that the lessons learned at Kingsville District High School, both in and out of the classroom over the last four years, have provided the solid foundation needed to meet this challenge,” he added.

  Toews encouraged the graduates not to be afraid, to do what they think is right, and to strive to build a community, wherever they are. “Help create a world where everyone is accepted, and where everyone has the chance to contribute and to succeed.”

  Kingsville District High School’s valedictorian Grace Johnson offered words of wisdom to her peers. “I’m sure when picturing our high school graduation, none of us could have imagined this particularly unique situation that we are in,” she said, adding she would have preferred to address everyone in person, in a cap and gown, rather than through a screen.

  “It seems every day, a new problem or injustice is being brought to light. The world seems like a much scarier place than it did six-months ago, perfect for a group of students such as us, who are about to leave the most comfortable place that we’ve all known for the past four years,” she said.

  Johnson said she loved being a student at Kingsville District High School. “While I did complain through every single functions test, cross country practice, and final exam, I know that the end result today is something to be very grateful for. Being a part of this school, a school that merges communities and brings students together, has provided me with some of my best memories that are shared with those I’ve met over these past four years.”

  This year, while dealing with Ontario school closures due to the teacher strike, Johnson said many students grabbed signs on different occasions and stood side-by-side their teachers to fight against cuts to education. In December, students helped collect over 7500 non-perishable items to donate to local food banks, and hosted two OFSAA events.

  “At KDHS, we are blessed with an excellent staff, who have helped us to accomplish these things. From the English hall all the way to the tech department, we have a staff deserving of recognition,” she said.

  Johnson added she appreciates every single one of her peers for playing a pivotal role in her teenage years.

  “I am excited for us. I am excited for a group of beautiful people such as this to spread our wings and broaden our horizons,” Johnson said. “Here is a group of students who have been put through the ringer this year and have walked out on the other side stronger.”

  She wrapped up her speech with, “This is it grade twelves. Let’s leave with an appreciation for the semesters we did get to complete, and a hope for our future. Let’s remember the wonderful years spent together and not the months apart. Let’s make our school and community proud. It is our job to define our new normal, and I have a feeling we will make it great.”

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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