M’CHIGEENG—The gym at Manitoulin Secondary School (MSS) was full of joyful cheers from family, friends and the 2015 graduating class themselves last Thursday evening as they tossed their caps in the air, celebrating the completion of high school and the beginning of their new life journey.

The Manitoulin Secondary School Class of 2015 graduates flank the stage at the high school. photos by Robin Burridge
The Manitoulin Secondary School Class of 2015 graduates flank the stage at the high school.
photos by Robin Burridge
The Manitoulin Secondary School Class of 2015 graduates flank the stage at the high school. photos by Robin Burridge
The Manitoulin Secondary School Class of 2015 graduates flank the stage at the high school.
photos by Robin Burridge

The ceremony began with the processional, led by the colour guard featuring members of Manitoulin’s police forces and the singing of O’Canada, led by graduating student Taylor Van Horn.

“Tonight we are here to celebrate these wonderful young people and their accomplishment,” said MSS Principal Laurie Zahnow.

Ms. Zahnow introduced the evening’s special guests including Rainbow District School Board (RDSB) members Grace Fox and Larry Killens, RDSB Superintendent of Schools Bruce Bourget and RDSB Director of Education Norm Blaseg.

Ms. Fox took to the podium to congratulate the graduates on their milestone.

“Today not only marks the completion of a successful school year, but a milestone in your academic career,” said Ms. Fox. “On behalf of the RDSB and the students, we thank the staff of MSS for their hard work in helping you get here. I would also like to thank the graduates’ parents and family who have remained by your side every step of the way. Take pride in your many achievements, graduates, in academics, the arts and sports. I wish you success in your future.”

Taylor Van Horn leads the graduating class and audience in the singing of O’Canada.
Taylor Van Horn leads the graduating class and audience in the singing of O’Canada.

Mr. Killens also addressed the graduates, noting that it was his twelfth year attending MSS graduation.

“There are several other graduations going on in Sudbury tonight, but it speaks to how important you are that Mr. Bourget and Mr. Blaseg chose to be here tonight,” said Mr. Killens. “It is hard to find the words to explain just how happy we are for you graduates and how much we appreciate you. I want to encourage you all as you move forward in life to stay in the learning mode. You will learn from your mistakes along the way. And be good to yourselves. This is your day, it belongs to you and you alone—own it and be proud. Congratulations.”

 

The M’Chigeeng Ladies Hand Drum Group played an honour song for the graduating class before MSS Vice Principal Madill and Superintendent Bourget began the presentation of the Ontario Secondary School Diplomas.

Sarah Orford was introduced following the diploma presentation as the class of 2015 valedictorian.

Ms. Orford’s address was heartfelt and personal for her class, with lots of references to the teachers and distinct memories, which made their time at MSS unique.

“Some of you have been counting down the days until graduation ever since we started Grade 9. Now that it’s finally here it’s almost unbelievable to think that four years could go by so quickly,” said Ms. Orford. “I think it’s fair to describe our high school experience as a roller coaster. There were so many amazing moments where we felt on top of the world and would laugh with our friends until we cried. On the other hand  there were also times where we were completely stressed out and wanted to give up due to the obstacles and challenges that faced us, which at the time seemed too great to ever overcome, but we never gave up. We overcame every obstacle and powered on through to the end to be able to be here today and say we not only survived high school, we conquered it together.”

MSS grad 13

During Principal Zahnow’s closing remarks she noted, “Today is the start of your adult life.”

“Your achievements and how you overcome your failures will define your character,” continued Ms. Zahnow. “Tonight is your life. The staff at MSS join me in celebrating your achievement and we all wish you well in this next phase of your journey.”

MSS grad 10

A group of graduates gather for a photo following the ceremony.
A group of graduates gather for a photo following the ceremony.

The MSS graduating class of 2015 is Noah Albers, Destanie Bailey, Scott Bailey, Roger Beaudin, Emma Berti, Luke Bond, Dexter Bowerman, Hanna Boyer, Joshua Burnett, Hannah Chapman, Christopher Cooper, Kieran Cooper, Ryan Cooper, Troy Cooper, Justice Corbiere, Kevin Courchesne, Matthew Craig, Jordan Cristo, Jolene Debassige, Patrick Debassige, Brett Deeg, Tom Deeg, Michael Deforge, Mikayla Farquhar, Sabrina Ferguson, Mackenzie Gallo, Brett Gauthier, Robin Genereux, John Glasby, Dallas Goodfellow, Shay-lynn Gordon, Menny Gordon-Corbiere, Emily Granville, Rosie Greco, Elijah Guy, Rebecca Hartley, Nathan Hovingh, Cindy Hu, Kayla Hughson, Justin Hunter, Wade Kakekagumick, Mikaila Kennedy, Kristopher Li Sancho, Ayden Manitowabi, Bobbie McAllister, Bridgette McDonald, Joy McGibbon, Jamie Millette, Jacob Moreau, Logan Murphy, Madison Myers, Nathan Myers, Jessey Newburn, Carly Newlands, Brayden Noble, Meranda Noble, Gavin Orford, Sarah Orford, Courtney Oswald, Mitchal Payette, Taylor Peltier, Kyle Pinkerton, Chrystal Quackenbush, Sean Redmore, Madison Rolston, Kai Saunders, Matthew Scott, Janelle Shaw, Andrew Smith, Maggie Strain, Michael Thurston, Kaitlynn Tomaselli, William Trudeau, David Tuerk, Taylor Van Horn, Brett Varey, Jesse Wabegijig, Brittany Wall, Raegan Wilkin, Jayden Windle, Connor Woestenenk and Tyra Young.

Visit www.manitoulin.ca to view a full album of photos from the evening.

Class of 2015 Manitoulin Secondary School valedictorian speech

by Sarah Orford

Good evening friends, families, honourable guests, and my fellow graduates. My name is Sarah Orford and it is a true honour to be standing here in front of you today to say we finally did it! We are Manitoulin Secondary School’s (MSS) class of 2015. After four incredible years the day has come where we will reflect upon our time spent at MSS, look toward the future, and of course wear the most stylish hats known to man as we accept our high school diplomas.

Some of you have been counting down the days until graduation ever since we started Grade 9. Now that it’s finally here it’s almost unbelievable to think that four years could go by so quickly. I think it’s fair to describe our high school experience as a roller coaster. There were so many amazing moments where we felt on top of the world and would laugh with our friends until we cried. On the other hand there were also times where we completely stressed out and wanted to give up due to the obstacles and challenges that faced us, which at the time seemed too great to ever overcome, but we never gave up. We overcame every obstacle and powered on through to the end to be able to be here today and say we not only survived high school, we conquered it together.

First off I would like to take a moment and thank our families. They were always there to help us with our homework, buy project supplies and drive us to various sporting events. I would not be the person I am today without my parents’ support and encouragement. The most important thing my parents have taught me is that you can be whatever you want to be as long as you have a strong work ethic and believe in yourself. I’d also like to say thank you to my two older brothers for never letting me take the easy way out and pushing me to be the best I can be.

Another group of people I’d like to thank is our teachers who have contributed to making our time here at MSS so memorable. Without them we wouldn’t have been able to participate in all the fun extra-curricular activities that gave us an abundant amount of memories. Over the years they have taught us more than we had ever expected they could and more than we really wanted. However, it isn’t the knowledge they taught us from PowerPoints, textbooks, or worksheets that I value the most because let’s be honest, most of us went on Spark Notes or Google to try and find the answers to the homework questions. Instead, the knowledge I value most came from hearing about their past experiences and their perspectives on life. At the time our teachers might have thought that we would ask questions that were completely irrelevant to what we were studying in order to get them off topic so we would have less work to do, and okay in some instances, this was the true intention. But in truth, these stories and conversations are what we will carry with us to bigger and better places as we continue on our path to success and they are what will stay with us long after we leave. So teachers, don’t be worried about us as we start off a new chapter in our lives because you have taught us well. On the other hand, I honestly don’t know what you’ll do without us next year. I’m sure you’ll miss our creative ways of thinking, unique personalities and our sarcastic humour. Although, I know that when we leave, you will try and fill the void left behind by us with a new group of Grade 9s next year but it won’t be the same because our class in irreplaceable. You must admit that we have made an impression on the school and you, the teachers, which you could never forget, even if you tried to.

Manitoulin Secondary School’s Sarah Orford gives her valedictorian address.
Manitoulin Secondary School’s Sarah Orford gives her valedictorian address.

Last but not least, the most important people I want to thank are my fellow graduates. Without you my high school experience wouldn’t have been as enjoyable. I truly believe that I have made life-long friends, or at least life-long acquaintances while attending MSS. When I was first asked to present this speech I had no idea what I was going to say. It wasn’t for a lack of great stories and unforgettable moments. I just wasn’t sure how to sum up our time together in a way that would do it justice.

When we first started Grade 9 I’m sure most of us were nervous about pretty much every aspect of high school. We didn’t want to get in the way of the Grade 12s, thought we would be drowning in homework on the first day and we were scared of getting lost, which some of us did. Just like all the other groups of Grade 9s before us and the ones that came after us, on the first day we went to our first class at least 10 minutes before the bell rang and sat in our desks awkwardly as the whole room was dead silent. It wasn’t long until we finally started to get the hang of things and made new discoveries. For example it didn’t take long for us to discover that Ms. Ferguson owns G corridor, which is where our lockers are, and doesn’t appreciate us lingering in her hallway after the bell goes. I have to admit, we did spend a lot of time in G corridor the first couple of years and made tons of memories there such as one of us rolling down the hallway in a garbage can during locker clean-up. Other people also found out how strong, or should I say, how breakable the windows are in that hallway. Nobody can ever say we’re a boring bunch of kids.

Other discoveries throughout Grades 9, 10 and 11 were that we learned Mr. Tallman consistently has the best Halloween costume every year which is hilarious but also kind of disappointing that he can pull off wearing a dress way better than I will ever to be able to. Quickly it also became very clear that Mrs. Balfe loves the word etcetera and that Menny is by far the most entertaining person to present in class because he is naturally hilarious. I mean who knew he could make a speech about blueberry muffins that was that memorable? Other common knowledge among our class was that Mr.Wesno’s flaming gummy bear of death demonstration is extremely cool and that our Scattergories games on Friday could get pretty heated. I’m sure our shouts of protests and celebrations were heard quite clearly by our neighbouring classes. One event that I don’t think anyone really expected or could ever forget was when Noah hopped up on top of the science counters and started to wash his leg in the sink while we were in the middle of a lesson. Nonetheless it was hilarious and our teacher had a good sense of humour about it.

By the start of Grade 12 many of us were ready to make it the best year yet. By this time we had mastered the art of taking pictures in class when we were supposed to be doing our work because lets be real did something really happen if we don’t send a snapchat about it to our friends, post it on Instagram with a bunch of unnecessary hashtags, and post a status about it on Facebook? Despite our social media skills, it was still a challenge to get onto websites that were ibossed. At this point some parents are probably shaking their head saying that if something is blocked then you don’t need to see it but to that I say one day even Google was blocked. Thus the struggle was real. Speaking of struggles, I’d like to give a shout out to the students who were in Mr. Balfe’s advanced functions class. It was a challenging course but together we won the Christmas door decorating contest and created an incredibly complex equation for Christmas since nothing is more festive than math equations.

Overall, our class is filled with crazy, funny, annoying, confusing, awesome, and open-minded individuals and I wouldn’t want to graduate with any other group of people. Despite our differences we have always been there to support each other. Cindy was always willing to help anyone with their homework, Jayden and David could handle most computer problems, and you could always depend on Dexter to brighten up your day by telling you the most unusual facts on any topic.

Yes, it is true that we have had a remarkable time at MSS and I’m sure you’ve thought to yourself life can’t get much better than this. In fact this year even one of my teachers told me that the last four years will end up being the best time of my life. However, I couldn’t disagree more. Although my time at MSS has been amazing, I believe high school should not be the best four years of your life. If stressing over getting the right MLA citations, memorizing the Calvin cycle, trying to prove trig identities, and having to ask and carry around the proper documentation to go to the bathroom is as good as life gets for you then you have done something wrong. If you find yourself in this position do not pass go, do not collect $200, just figure out how to be happy and have fun because high school isn’t the end,  it’s just the beginning of the rest of your life.

As I look out into the crowd of graduates I see a diverse group of people that are destined for greatness and large amounts of student debt. In the future some of you may turn out to be Olympic athletes, famous musicians, lawyers, business owners, farmers, mechanics, engineers, and who knows, Kyle may even help find the cure for cancer one day. The possibilities are endless. So I urge you to always go after what you want and never settle for less. Whether, your dreams take you to post-secondary school or travelling around the world, or another year at MSS, never forget to make the most of every moment. Life is a journey, so enjoy the ride. At some point in our life we will fail and make lots of mistakes but don’t let the fear of failure stop you chasing after your dreams. I used to be terrified of failing and making mistakes but somewhere along the line I realized that failure and mistakes are inevitable and they are nothing to be ashamed of. If anything they teach you a lesson and make you a stronger person. Also, don’t be afraid to try new things because in the end you will only regret the chances you didn’t take.

Today it is clear to see that we’ve come a long way from where we began. We’ve grown up to become great leaders who fight for what we believe in. Going forward in life never forget to live in the moment, appreciate the little things and live life like nobody’s watching. Most importantly remember that excuses will always be there, opportunities won’t. It has been an honour to share this experience with you and I wish you all good luck in your future, not that I think any of you will need it.

Congratulations class of 2015!