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PECI celebrates graduates at first in-person ceremony in three years

Following three years of virtual celebrations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 100 graduates of Prince Edward Collegiate Institute were honoured on stage with a full house of proud family members and friends in the audience.

PECI Principal Andrew Ross told the crowd at the Prince Edward Community Centre in Picton that he was pleased “to finally celebrate with all of you here, together for the first time in three years.”

The crowd cheered with thunderous applause.

Ross shared his custom of opening a fortune cookie at school staff meetings – noting he had saved the last cookie for the final meeting tomorrow, but decided he would seek its wisdom for his graduation address.

The fortune stated “Not everyone will understand your journey. That’s cool. It’s not theirs to make sense of. It’s yours.”

“We have learned some important lessons in our shared journey through the past few years. To begin with, I hope you see how learning comes from everywhere; in all that we do – in the successes, the challenges, the surprises in life. Opportunities for learning abound and they’re deeply connected to every experience of your personal journey.”

Secondly, he asked the graduates to always remember the lessons of being persistent, and tenacious. “By graduating you have all proven yourselves to be prepared for the road shifting beneath at your feet… Although your journey may contain surprises, it is you who will determine the destination… As you celebrate, remember to express your gratitude and appreciation for all those who have joined you on your journey.”

Valedictorian Austin Lavender gave thanks to teachers, staff, families and peers for all they did to get through the pandemic years to the graduation stage.

He recalled that walking into Grade 9 he was terrified as “everybody was so tall and scary” but as school went on, he met “some very nice people” and learned that “the teachers were real people, too”.

“Our school years were anything but normal. Grade 10 started out normally, until March Break – we had a really, really long March Break (beginning of the pandemic in 2020). It was fun at the beginning but then we couldn’t see anyone or do anything for months. It was a hard time for many people. Returning to school for Grade 11, he noted, was better with online learning and seeing each other.

“Thankfully our Grade 12 year was a normal as possible,” with classes in person, performances, clubs and sports were back.

“We missed out on many typically experiences – assemblies, trips and school-wide events, but it only shows how much adversity we had overcome. I’m proud of us.

“Needless to say, our high school experience was unprecedented and those times were uneasy and mentally hard. But we got through a pandemic, and then graduated! I think that alone is reason for celebration,” he added, to great cheers and applause from his peers.

Thirty-six students graduated as Ontario Scholars, receiving an average of 80 per cent or higher in six Grade 12 courses. Another 58 received additional certificates in technology, arts and training programs.

More than 100 awards and bursaries were presented.

Emily Stasiw received the Governor General’s Academic Medal for highest academic standing for overall average in both Grades 11 and 12. She also received the Terry Sprague Science and Nature Scholarship award (sponsored by the Hastings Prince Edward Land Trust, Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and Prince Edward Point Bird Observatory) as well as sharing the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Health Science Annual Scholarship and five mathematics, chemistry, physics and kinesiology awards.

Kiydan Zachariah received the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award for Students for exemplary volunteer involvement within the community. Zachariah also received the Ontario Principals’ Council Award for Student Leadership, chosen by the principal and shared the PECMH Auxiliary scholarship, as well as the Johan DeRoche Kinette Memorial Bursary for a student pursing nursing or midwifery; the PE District Women’s Institute Bursary, the Sandra M. Hall Nursing Award, the Spencer Scholarship for oral communication skills in the arts and the Mac’s Bursary for Drama as well as sharing the Students’ Council Salt of the Earth award.

Natalie Todd received the OSSTF Student Recognition Award for a graduating student who excels in citizenship, academics, and extra-curricular activities. She also shared the Rotary/Stark Family Fund awards, a French and Change for the World bursaries.

The Highline Produce Limited Award was presented to Parker Philip as the student with the highest average in six Grade 12 university entrance level courses. He also received the Picton Kiwanis Communications Award; the Pretsell Davies Thompson Benton Law Award, Margaret Halkett scholarship and Prince Edward Achievement Award as well as bursaries for English and data management.

The Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Health Science Annual Scholarship for students proceeding to post-secondary studies in health sciences was presented to Alexis Mulville, Emily Stasiw and Kiydan Zachariah.

Shirin Mohssen-Beyk received The Prince Edward County Community Care for Seniors Foundation Award for a deserving student proceeding to study an SSW Program or Gerontology, or a student who has enriched the life of a senior.

The Prince Edward County Community Care for Seniors Foundation’s Maureen Finnegan Award was presented to Lando Williams, for outstanding contributions to the community.

The Students’ Council Special Recognition awards were presented for outstanding contribution to the life of the school, to Lizzy St. Germain, Macartney Mulridge, Lauren Smith and Brennan Vincent.

Salt of the Earth awards for students who have undertaken major responsibilities in extracurricular activities, and who carried them out with exceptional devotion to duty and enterprise, were presented to Max Mee (presented earlier in the evening), Kiydan Zachariah and Isabelle Burfoot-Clarke.

The Salt of the Earth Teacher Award was presented to Janet Curran, for organization of extracurricular activities carried out with exceptional commitment to student engagement.

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  1. Dennis Fox says:

    Congratulation students! You have worked hard for this, so enjoy it and have a wonderful and safe summer!

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