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Class of 2019 celebrates individuals who create community

In a touching tribute to Abby Heffernan, students lead a standing ovation upon hearing she was named recipient of the MacGuyver Daubney award for grit, resilience and overcoming adversity.

Abby Heffernan

Highlighting class in the Class of 2019, students, followed by their teachers and the audience, gave a touching standing ovation at PECI’s graduation ceremony Thursday night to a fellow student who was unable to attend.

The tribute followed the announcement that Abigail Heffernan was named recipient of the MacGuyver Daubney award for grit, resilience and overcoming adversity. Heffernan has been battling cancer over her high school years and was unable to attend the ceremony held at the Prince Edward County Community Centre.

Bruce Reynolds

“There are many people within our graduating class who have done anything and everything to bring themselves, and others, to happier places,” said Bruce Reynolds, valedictorian. “I am truly moved by their passion and faith.”

He spoke of triumphs of students, especially those who worked through mental health issues, learning disabilities and other personal issues.

“These students have done everything they can to overcome and not allow it to control their lives. Students took their own personal experiences and used them to help others struggling. I cannot express how proud I am to be a Panther when I hear these kinds of things happening.

He quoted Alexander Graham Bell saying ‘When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.’

“So, class of 2019, let’s seek the open door when one is slammed in our face. Use what you have learned here at PECI and in the County and seek opportunities when you are facing adversity. Go out into the world and bring happiness and joy to yourself and everyone around you.”

Reynolds spoke of his own battle being diagnosed with dyslexia in Grade 9.

“It is a reading and writing learning disability. When I was diagnosed, I thought it was the end of the world. I thought I wasn’t smart enough for school; that I didn’t belong anywhere because I was different and I was terrified I would get bullied for not being able to read.

“As time passed the techniques that were taught to me began to come easier and I mastered them. That was when I made the decision I would be able to make it in the world. You all accepted me the way I was and some of you even thought it was cool, and would ask me questions about it. I cannot thank you all enough.

Speaking of burdens and struggles over the high school years, Reynolds noted that at one point, “everybody looks around for help, for motivation, for a person we can trust to help us and we were fortunate enough to have a school community full of support and encouragement; staff who cared about our academic and personal well-being; friendships and opportunities to come together and make a difference for one another, the school and the community.”

The County’s sense of community impressed principal Earl Wright who took over the position in January.

“As someone new to the school, one thing that stood out for me from day one is the strong sense of community that exists at PECI,” he said. “There’s a true sense of family here. With all families, we celebrate when good things happen and we have some differences of opinion once in a while. But when it really matters, this community comes together and is here for one another.”

He also thanked generous community sponsors for $20,000 worth of awards, scholarships and bursaries donated to honour the 2019 graduates.

The Governor General’s Academic Medal was presented to Amanda Johnson, by PECI principal Earl Wright, honouring her achievement of highest academic standing.

The Neil Ellis Citizenship Award was presented by Adrianna Christie, constituency assistant, to Jack MacCool, for exemplary volunteer involvement in the community.

The Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award was presented to Katherine Reddick, by principal Earl Wright, for her exemplary volunteer involvement in the community.

The George Elson Memorial Award for best all-round student at PECI was presented to Amanda Johnson by Students’ Council co-president Sarah Johnson.

Salt of the Earth Awards – for students who have undertaken major responsibilities in extracurricular activities and who have carried them out with exceptional devotion to duty and enterprise – were presented to Terra Cobb, Jackson deBoef, Amanda Johnson, Riley Rogers, Aaron Wiik, Carey Evans, Bruce Reynolds and Malcolm Ross.

Special Recognition Awards – for outstanding contribution to the life of the school – were presented to Brodie Byford, Terra Cobb, Amanda Johnson, Jack MacCool, Riley Rogers and Alanna Wolfe.

The Citizenship Award – for a student who donates time to the community on a volunteer basis and contributes to the activities of PECI – was presented to Jessie Swackhammer and Katherine Reddick, by Students’ Council co-president Sarah Johnson.


Thaila Hicks received the Prince Edward County Community Care for Seniors Foundation Award from Chris Campbell, presented to a deserving student proceeding to stuy an SSW program or gerontology, or for a student who has enriched the life of a senior.

The Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Health Science Annual Scholarship – for students proceeding to post-secondary studies in health sciences – was presented to Breanna Channell, Amanda Johnson, Bruce Reynolds, Shelby Smith, Jude Szabo and Aaron Wiik.

The Hastings Prince Edward District School Board Awards – for deserving students proceeding to post-secondary education – were presented by Superintendent Tina Elliott, to Terra Cobb, Emily Gilchrist, Emma Goodman, Keegan McCabe and Lea Mohssen-Beyk.

Retiring teacher Lisa Fraser was presented a special Salt of the Earth Award for her many contributions to school life over her career.

Filed Under: Featured ArticlesHastings & Prince Edward District School BoardPECI - It's a Panther Thing

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