The Ice For Kids Arena once again was packed as Fort Frances High School held its annual graduation ceremony Thursday night.
The ceremony opened with music by the Fort High band, under the direction of Lisa Loney in her final performance with the school.
Following the band's performance of “Pomp and Circumstance" and "O Canada,” a moment of silence took place and gold ribbons were worn in remembrance of graduate Chase Copenace, who passed away earlier this month.
Fort High principal Bill Daley then took the stage, sharing words of encouragement with the graduates and reassuring them they have learned all the knowledge and skills needed to take the next steps on their journey.
Daley admitted it can be scary leaving what is familiar and going to new places, but he assured the students they have the education they need to succeed.
The presentation of Ontario Secondary School Diplomas followed, with roars from the audience as each graduate accepted their diploma.
The Rainy River District School Board Awards were distributed afterwards.
The Leading Student Award was presented to Carleigh Bates for having the highest grade average in six Grade 12 credits.
Gold clocks were awarded to Emma Cole, Maighyn DeGagne, Maria Gilbert, and Jyllian Westover for receiving at least three certificates of merit.
The Governor General's Medal subsequently was presented to Carleigh Bates for having the highest grade average in her Grade 11 and 12 courses.
Other awards presented at the ceremony included:
- the Lenora Colvin Memorial Award to Jacob Gustafson for having the most outstanding attendance record (he also received the Ralph Wetstone Trophy for being the most outstanding music student);
- the Robert George Memorial Award to Kendyn Faragher for having the highest standard in practical application of automotive theory;
- the Sir Isaac Newton Award to Brandon Larson for having the highest average on the first attempt in 4U Physics and 4U Calculus and Vectors;
- the Murray Kitts Theatre Arts Award to Maria Gilbert for her outstanding contributions to the school's theatrical productions; and
- the Lieutenant Governor's Community Volunteer Award for Students to Emma Cole for going above and beyond the required number of volunteer hours to graduate.
Rainy River District School Board Technical Awards for Excellence were given to Ellie Petsnick (Communications), Samuel Henzmann (Construction), Braedon Belluz (Manufacturing), and Eric Pitkanen (Transportation).
Following the awards, valedictorian Kendyn Faragher took the stage to deliver his address.
He began by welcoming family, friends, teachers, and fellow students, and also thanked the custodians for cleaning up the graduates' mess after their water balloon-related “senior prank.”
“Daley, I think we won that one,” Faragher laughed.
He spoke of the great times he and other graduates had shared and the adventure they all experienced together.
“Over the past four years, the countless memories we've made from organized trips through the school to muddy field parties, and the friendships made along the way, were surreal and will last a lifetime,” Faragher said.
He also touched on the passing of fellow classmate and dear friend, Chase Copenace.
“This is a reminder to cherish each day and makes the most of the time that we have,” Faragher said.
The avid hockey player and golfer also spoke to his school's extra-curricular success, such as winning OFSAA gold in boys' hockey, track and field, boys' curling, and girls' hockey.
“We have had multiple teams and athletes set personal records in badminton, track and field, soccer, and cross-country skiing throughout our four years,” Faragher lauded.
“On top of that, our success in NorWOSSA have been crazy; from going undefeated in volleyball, basketball, hockey, golf, football, curling, and many more.”
Faragher thanked the school for each athletic opportunity he's had, and said each opportunity he and fellow classmates has had in sports should be cherished.
“Being a Muskie throughout our high school career has really shaped each of our characters individually by showing us how to be respectable, dedicated, hard-working, motivated, and disciplined throughout sport,” he remarked.
He also spoke about how far he and each of his classmates have come as a group and how they have all grown in some way.
Faragher ended his speech by wishing his class well and thanking all the parents, teachers, friends, family, office staff, custodians, and everyone who helped him and his class graduate high school.
Faragher would like to thank all his teachers who helped him along the way, and provided him with direction during his high school education.
He also wishes his fellow grads well and reminds them to always do what they love in their future endeavours.
“Whatever you choose to do, hopefully you love it and do it to the best of your abilities,” Faragher stressed.
“If you don't like what you're doing, switch it up and live life to the fullest because it's short.”