Relatives and friends pack MSS graduation

Hats fly skyward in a traditional burst of exuberance as the graduation ceremony draws to a close. photos by Alicia McCutcheon

M’CHIGEENG—It was a full house for the 2016 Manitoulin Secondary School graduation ceremonies held June 16 as family and friends gathered to send off their graduates to the next step on their journey, be it post-secondary education or the world of work.

On stage this year to oversee the ceremonies were Rainbow District School Board trustees Larry Killens and Grace Fox, Superintendent of (Manitoulin) Schools Kathy Wachnuk, Vice Principal David Wiwchar and, for her last MSS graduation ceremony, Principal Laurie Zahnow. Emcees for the evening were teachers Willa Wilson and Mike Zegil.

Trustee Fox congratulated the students on 12 years of education so far, commending them on their stamina, resilience and the work they have put forth to get them to the podium that day. She also acknowledged the commitment they have dedicated to school, the long hours and the long bus rides for some.

“Youth are not just out future, they are contributing now with the skills they have learned here,” Trustee Fox said.

She said she wished the graduates continued curiosity and a skillset to make infinite learning possible. She also shared her wish that “we as First Nations people will never have to endure another apology by any level of government.”

Manitoulin Rainbow District Board Trustee Larry Killens addresses the student body.
Manitoulin Rainbow District Board Trustee Larry Killens addresses the student body.

Trustee Killens called himself lucky to be part of the graduation.

“This evening is your final passage to the rest of your life,” he addressed the grads.

He told the students that his favourite animal was a turtle, because “in order for a turtle to move on, he must stick his head out. There are going to be times when you stick your neck out to meet challenges.”

Principal Zahnow next addressed her students. “As you cross the stage to receive your diploma, be proud of what you have accomplished here at Manitoulin Secondary School. You have fulfilled the requirements for an Ontario Secondary School Diploma, have made countless friends, had memorable experiences and have learned many life lessons along the way.”

“High school is an experience that will stay with you forever,” the principal continued, herself an MSS alumnus. “Nurturing parents, caring teachers, and an involved community have all helped you achieve your goals at this stage in your life. Don’t stop here: take your Mustang pride and heritage with you as you go forth into the next chapter of your life.”

She said the day was a day for stars in your eyes and dreams in your heart, “there’s nothing sweeter than success due to hard work.” Principal Zahnow said that all of their talents, strengths and abilities mean nothing without a sound heart. She urged the grads to be tolerant of the faults of others, but not their own and to remember friends made at MSS as they are a part of who they are.

Principal Zahnow gave the students these parting words: “Strive to be happy and reach your goals, whatever they may be.”

After an honour song by the drum group Anishinaabe Connection, Vice Principal Wiwchar introduced the 2016 valedictorian, Max Chapman of Little Current. He gave a funny glimpse into the life of Max Chapman, student, from JK through to Grade 12, sharing snippets of his student record beginning with a love of dressing up, building blocks and playing cars to becoming a caring young leader, clearly a thoughtful young man with a quick wit, who organized many events at MSS as a member of the Students’ Council.

Valedictorian Max Chapman brought his inspiring words to his fellow graduates.
Valedictorian Max Chapman brought his inspiring words to his fellow graduates.

Max, who will be attending Queen’s University in the fall to earn a BA, then took to the podium to give the following address:

“Good evening superintendent, trustees, teachers, administrators, friends, family and, most importantly, the class of 2016. Tonight we are celebrating the culmination of the last 4 to 5 years and all the memories we’ve made as a class. If you’re here for the pickup basketball game, they moved that to the court outside, so you can make your way out there.

I can’t begin express what an honour and a pleasure it is to be speaking tonight to all of you on this important milestone. There are so many people to thank for getting us here today. Mrs. Zahnow, Mr. Wiwchar, Mrs. Scott, and Mrs. McDermid, who keep the school running smoothly, without you we wouldn’t know what to do. I’d like to thank our teachers, EAs, guidance counsellors and the school social worker for putting up with us for all these years; you guys truly deserve a medal of bravery. Thank you to the librarian and hall monitor for always keeping us in check as well as the custodians for all their hard work. Thank you to all our parents for supporting us and pushing us to make it to the end; and I’d like to say thank you to someone who may not have been seen but was always there to keep us on the right track, so thank you Enviroman, whoever you are.

Now, I’d like to say a few words about someone to whom we all owe a huge debt of gratitude. Mrs. Zahnow has been with us these four years doing her absolute best to make high school the incredible experience it has been. I know from working with her on Students’ Council that there is no one more dedicated to this school and no one who cares more about the students of MSS. Mrs. Zahnow started as principal at MSS the same year that most of us would have started JK and she worked tirelessly for eight years to make sure that this school was ready to handle us and, under her leadership, MSS has survived and thrived. This is her last graduation here at MSS because, like us, she is moving on to bigger and better things next February, so I would like to say from everyone at MSS ‘thank you for everything you’ve done for this school.’

Finally, I want to say thank you to everyone in this class, you are all such amazing and devoted people who I feel lucky to have spent the last four years with. I know that you will all go out and do incredible things with your lives in whatever fields you choose because, in the words of Mr. Balfe, ‘You’re all a bunch of porterhouse steaks,’ which to him is a compliment, apparently.

Everyone in this class has been so involved in our school, be it Students’ Council, Rainbow Rights, Share GoGreen, Three Fires, the hockey team, volleyball, basketball, badminton, tennis, gymnastics, archery, and any other club or team I may have missed. We’ve made a lot of memories within these walls with some truly amazing people and a few interesting characters. We’ve all suffered through a ‘Tom Sweaty and the Pacemakers’ performance by Mr. Scott and Mr. Nelson, we’ve been permanently scarred by seeing Tallman in a dress and red heels more often than I’d like— those legs will live forever seared into our minds. As you move on, make sure that you treasure these memories, keep them close to your heart and when things get tough in the future and you need something to lift your day, think back to the wonderful times you had here with these people and things may not seem so bad then.

Now we’re all headed our separate ways as we move on into adulthood. Our lives are going to change drastically and this may be the last time we all see each other again as a group. We will all be different the next time we meet, but one thing we know isn’t going to change too quickly is MSS.

In 34 years when I return smarter, wealthier and infinitely more handsome (I can hear Zegil rolling his eyes) there are some things that I know will still be the same here.

Mr. Balfe will still think that using a Russian or German or whatever accent that’s supposed to be on the announcements makes people want to go to CrossFit, the social phenomena that is team FXR will still exist and take up the stairs in D corridor.

I can guarantee that the microwaves will still be gross and once again I’m deeply sorry for saying that I’d clean those. People still won’t use cafe trays, Zegil will still be extremely sarcastic, Mr. Smith will still be incredibly attractive, the list goes on and on and even though they seem trivial now, these memories will stay with us for the rest of our lives and unite us as we chase our destinies across the world, because you can take us out of the Island, but you can’t take the Island out of us.

I look forward to the day when we see each other again and the people we’ve become, when I can meet the nurses and doctors, the carpenters and electricians, the lawyers and police officers and all the innovative and successful people that I was privileged enough to go to high school with. There will be challenges ahead for all of us but I know that everyone here has great potential, that you will meet the future with your head held high and your hearts open. James Joyce said, ‘Better to pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.’

So leave here tonight ready to make a difference in the world, knowing where you came from and be proud of the fact that you are a graduate of MSS. We will all meet again one day and look fondly upon the times we shared together because high school was, as Alex Dawson said, “not as lame as I thought. Thank you.”

Friends and relatives line up to take a once in a lifetime milestone photograph.
Friends and relatives line up to take a once in a lifetime milestone photograph.

Members of the 2016 graduating class are: Hayden Angrove-Hubbard, Carolyn Glasby, Zada Pierce, Tori Slomke, Sasha Assinewai, Tristan Golder, Camille Poitras, Isaac Sloss, Cassidy Beaudin, Alexa Gordon, Jeremiah Pulsifer, Samuel Stoneypoint, Elisabeth Bertrand, David Hall, Michael Quackenbush, Shalyne Thompson, Sabrina Bondi, Benjamin Haner, Nicholas Rancourt, Skylar Trimmer, Nicole Cadieux, Thomas Hayden, Liam Ray, Sabrina Trudeau, Daniel Chapman, Emily Hnatyshen, Roman Roy, Mackenzie Turner, Maxwell Chapman, Gabby Janoki, Bradly Sayyae, Haley Vander Weerden, Cole Chisholm, Jessica Jordison, David Scott, Elizabeth VanKesteren, Madelyn Corbiere, Terry Kay, William Scott, Stephanie White, Ali Cosby, Tyler King, Nicholas Secord, Thomas Wiwchar, Quinton Cosby, Kennedy Lanktree, Kylie Cranston, Liam Leblanc, Connor Croft, Robin Lentir, Jade Danville, Evelyn McAllister, Rebecca Dawson, Alicia McLean-Corbiere, Brandon Antoine-Debassige, Brady Dearing, Karissa Merrylees, Randy Tessier, Grace Dewar, Corey Moggy, Pheonix Towers, Nadia Didur, Jordan Moore, Hugh Escario, Jacob Nichols, Honor Esquimaux, Carter Noble, Dylan Francis, Hayley Noel, Alexis French, Ronson Odjig, Katie Gillespie, Bernard Pashe and Mackenzie Gilmore.