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PECI graduates, ‘may your dreams be realized, and your journey continue’: principal

Story and photos by Desirée DeCoste
Prince Edward Collegiate Institute’s graduating class of 2023 saw 98 students walk across the stage to receive a diploma in front of proud family members, friends, teachers and staff.

“Graduation is not the end of a journey; it is simply the beginning of a new one,” said Andrew Ross, PECI principal. “It is a milestone at which you pause, and reflect upon the lessons you have learned, the friendships you have forged, and the memories that shape your identity. It is a time to celebrate the growth you have experienced and the personal development that has shaped you into the individual you are today.”

Ross continued his address to the 2023 graduating class asking them to reflect upon the profound nature of learning.

“By now you should know that learning transcends the confines of a classroom,” continued Ross. “It permeates every aspect of our lives, manifesting itself in our triumph, trials, and in both the expected and the unexpected moments of our lives. The world is our classroom, and within it, endless opportunities for growth and learning exist. I’m so very excited, and a touch envious, that your classroom is about to get a whole lot bigger.”

Ross then implored the graduating class to embrace invaluable character traits of perseverance and resilience.

“By arriving here today, you demonstrated these traits, even when your journey seemed difficult – especially when it seemed difficult,” he said. “When faced with obstacles, you regrouped and forged ahead. Remember, it is within you to summon the strength to pursue your dreams. While your journey will undoubtedly present surprises, always remember that you have the power to determine your destination.”

He also told the graduates to consider the people who surround them.

“Our community, friends, educators, and above all, your families — they have been unwavering in their support,” finished Ross. “As you embark on the path that lies before you, know that you will not travel alone. In celebrating the completion of Grade 12, I gently remind you – or perhaps not so gently remind you – to express your heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to all those who have shared your journey thus far. May your future be filled with endless possibilities, may your dreams be realized, and may your journey continue to be enriched by the lessons learned and the bonds forged along the way.”

Sage Noxon, valedictorian

Sage Noxon, valedictorian for the class of 2023, thanked the teachers and all staff at PECI, friends, family and peers for all they did to help graduates get to where they are today. And she noted she couldn’t forget thanking Prince Edward Pizzeria.

Noxon went on to say she had mixed emotions about the ending of this stage in life.

“As I stand here, looking out at everyone I’ve grown up with, I can’t help but feel mixed emotions. On the one hand, I am overjoyed and excited to be moving onto the next chapter of our lives, yet on the other, I’m sad to be saying goodbye. It’s such a surreal and unfamiliar feeling to be moving on from all we’ve known for the past four years, and from our entire life before. It feels as though we’ve been here for an eternity yet at the same time it’s gone by so fast.”

Noxon went on to share a snippet from her mother’s valedictorian address from PECI class of 1989.

“I’ve been reflecting on our experiences and drawing inspiration from life and film on how I could inspire today,” said Noxon. “You’ll be relieved to hear that I will not be performing a rendition of ABBA’s “When I Kissed the Teacher,” but I will be reading from my mother, Vicki Emlaw’s valedictory address for the PECI class of 1989.

“She said: ‘Tonight let us remember the shy acquaintances we met in Grade 9 that gradually transformed into well-known friends. The good times that we managed to survive even though sometimes we doubted that it was possible. Altogether we spend approximately eight hours a day, five days a week, four weeks a month, nine months a year” for (what was then) five years, together. And she said, “ If we hadn’t become attached after that amount of time then we never would, but we did and we stayed together as a team.’”

Noxon noted that since returning to in-person school they accomplished much in gatherings, sports and dramatic arts.

“Our teachers deserve the most sincere thank you from each one of us,” said Noxon. “PECI has grown to be quite a special place in my heart. Not that it’s perfect, every school has its faults but the staff at our school are who make the difference. Not only did they work tirelessly over the years to ensure we were learning, but they gave many of us second chances when we probably didn’t deserve it. They not only prepared us for exams but they prepared us for the future each of us will make for ourselves.”

Thirty-two students graduated as Ontario Scholars with an average of 80 per cent or higher in six Grade 12 courses.

More than 70 awards and bursaries were presented.

Christine Thornton receives the Governor General’s Academic Medal for highest academic standing for overall average in both Grade 11 and 12. She also received the Ontario Principals’ Council Award for Student Leadership, OSSTF Student Recognition Award, was  one of the recipients of The Rotary/Stark Family Fund Awards, Canadian Federation of University Women, Picton & District Scholarship, and Hiles Carter Award for University Biology (SBI4U). She was among Students’ Council Salt of the Earth and Special Recognition award winners.

Emma Colton – Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award for Students for exemplary volunteer involvement within the community. Johan DeRoche Kinette Memorial Bursary.

Valedictorian Sage Noxon received the Highline Produce Limited Award for a student with the highest average in six Grade 12 university entrance level courses. She was one of the recipients of The Rotary/Stark Family Fund Awards, The Rotary Club Volunteer Award, Thomas Kinney Memorial Scholarship, Cecil Morley Kerr Memorial Award and Students’ Council Salt of the Earth award.

Daniele Romano, Bethany Foster and Gabrielle Kinnear received the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Auxiliary Health Science Annual Scholarship.

Olivia Norman 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 proceeding to an Ontario university. She also received the Lance Netherly Memorial Bursary and the Vernon McCaw Memorial Scholarship.

Matthew Vincent received The Prince Edward County Community Care for Seniors Foundation – Maureen Finnegan Award for a graduating student who has made outstanding contributions to the community. As well, he received the Kinsmen Club of Picton Scholarship and Heidelberg Materials Trades Award.

Christine Thornton and Alice Graham were presented Student Council Special Recognition Awards for outstanding contributions to the life of the school.

Christine Thornton, Shelby Swackhammer, Sage Noxon and Bethany Foster received Student Council Salt of the Earth Awards given to students who have undertaken major responsibilities in extracurricular activities and who have carried them out with exceptional devotion to duty and enterprise.


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