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Finally - High school students eager for graduation ceremony

‘We’ve been wanting to feel this togetherness,’ says graduating St. Mary’s College student

Sault high school students are looking forward to in-person graduation ceremonies in June after COVID lockdowns and restrictions made such ceremonies impossible in 2020 and 2021. 

Within the Huron-Superior Catholic District School Board, St. Mary’s College will hold a mass and graduation ceremony beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 28 at GFL Memorial Gardens.

A graduation luncheon will also be held that day. 

“It feels super exciting,” said Grade 12 SMC student Gracee Zagordo, speaking to SooToday.

“We’ve been wanting to feel this togetherness. We’ve been social distancing with masks obviously so it will be nice to get together all as one again.”

“I’m very excited,” said classmate Adam Morgenstern.

“It was sad seeing the last two graduating classes miss out on something so important. For a Grade 12 class, it really does wrap up your entire high school experience being in a big room with all the people you went to school with over four years. It is a good way to get that closure, to finish off your four years and I’m really glad that we are in a position now that we’re able to get that closure and have an in- person graduation ceremony.”

“I think it’s really nice because we started off our high school experience with the people in our class and being able to end it in person with them really bonds us a class,” said graduating SMC Grade 12 student Ailee Iacoe.

“It’ll be a good send off to really celebrate. High school’s not easy. It’s a lot of work, so it’s nice to have a celebration to end it all off.”

The three students said they plan to stay in touch after graduation.

“For sure. We’ve been friends forever, since Grade 8, and myself and Ailee since Grade 1,” Zagordo said.

It was - and continues to be - a year of achievement for the graduating class at St. Mary’s College.

“We released our first Knights magazine this year,” Zagordo said.

Knights is a high quality publication showcasing SMC students and activities.

“It’s a bit more personal than a yearbook. There’s a lot of articles for younger students, targeted toward incomers,” Iacoe said.

Before graduation, SMC Grade 12 students will be participating in a grad wake-a-thon in which they will stay up overnight to raise funds for both graduation activities and for Tracy’s Dream.

Tracy’s Dream helps cancer patients pay for hospital parking by providing free parking tokens to patients of the Algoma District Cancer Program.

An athletic banquet will be held June 6, another chance for SMC students to gather in-person for a special event.  

“I’m really excited about graduation just because it’s a return to normal. Over the last couple of years we haven’t been able to celebrate any milestones in person. Should things change we’ll make sure, whatever graduation looks like, that it will honour the grads and it will be something really special for them,” said Colleen Hannah, St. Mary’s College principal.

“We certainly were creative for the past couple of years. We learned to create an entire convocation online. But being able to celebrate together is huge.”

As for the June 28 graduation luncheon, Zagordo said “we usually try to stay away from fancy restaurants so that everyone is included and everyone stays together. We do have a luncheon planned but it’s most likely here at St. Mary’s or GFL so that everyone’s included.” 

Zagordo and Iacoe said they have their graduation gowns ordered for the big day, Morgenstern ready with a new suit.

As for future plans, Zagordo is heading off to Wilfrid Laurier University to study political science for two years, then three years of study in law at University of Sussex in England before finishing off her law exams in Canada.

“I definitely want to come back and get involved in politics. I definitely love the Sault but I’m also ready to move on and try something new.”

“Starting in the fall I am going to be enrolling in the media and communications studies program at the University of Guelph - Humber in Etobicoke,” Morgenstern said.

“I am planning to go to Sault College in the fall in the hairstyling program and I want to start my own business, to be an entrepreneur. I’m excited about that,” Iacoe said.

There are 188 potential graduates at St. Mary’s College, another 35 at Holy Angels Learning Centre. 

Algoma District School Board Grade 8 and Grade 12 classes are also eagerly looking forward to back to normal graduation ceremonies.

“Planning is underway now and depending on the school, different options are being considered. Some schools are looking at holding their ceremonies outdoors, while others are keeping ceremonies indoors, on site. Some schools may plan to incorporate elements that worked well in the last couple years, for instance possibly live streaming the event for students and/or family members who may be cautious about attending an in-person event,” said Lucia Reece, ADSB director of education in an email.

“Schools, as always, are looking forward to honouring and recognizing their students at this special year end occasion. We wish all our graduates the best in their future endeavors and remind everyone to celebrate safely and responsibly,” Reece said.

"Korah and ADSB are excited to announce this year that in person graduations are back,” said Shail Giroux, graduating Grade 12 Korah Collegiate student in an email.

“Personally, I am very excited to celebrate with all my peers who I have spent the last years at Korah with throughout my high school experience before moving onto the next step of my education. This is a sentiment shared by our whole student body. With almost all of our graduating class back in person this year, the return to a traditional graduation comes after our transition back to a traditional learning setting. I personally do not know any students who have chosen to remain online and this can be attributed to the amazing precautions that Korah and ADSB have implemented throughout the pandemic to ensure a safe and comfortable learning environment,” Giroux said.

Giroux will be attending University of California, Berkeley’s mechanical engineering program in the fall.

Korah is hosting a graduation ceremony June 29 for students and their families as well as a prom on June 30 for the graduating class.

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Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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