Lake Country high school valedictorian sends grads off with wise words

Grace Robinson is the George Elliot Secondary’s Class of 2020 Valedictorian. (Contributed)

Hello fellow graduates, respected staff of George Elliot Secondary, friends, family, and anyone reading in support of George Elliot’s 2020 graduation.

I want to begin with a huge thank you for the incredible honour it is to present this year’s valedictorian speech.

My name is Grace Robinson, I’ve lived in Lake Country my entire life and therefore have had the opportunity to grow up alongside the majority of our grad class. I have seen these people mature from foolish children into studious young adults, or in some cases taller children.

No matter how much time we have behind us, we get to celebrate this milestone together as a united graduating class.

Congratulations 2020 grads, for your struggles and successes throughout the past 14 years (and yes I’m counting preschool!).

We’ve made it. Be proud.

I remember entering the annex for the first time, back when it still looked like a prison, and meeting the people that would shape my life for the next six years.

We fantasized about what high school had in store for us, and what graduation would look like. We were…a little off.

For starters, I did not expect to be roasted so much by our teachers (shout out to Frehlick, happy retirement buddy), I had no idea Saint Nic was hired as our librarian, and I especially wasn’t prepared to know what a freezer full of roadkill looked like.

I was particularly surprised to be part of such a special grad class.

I’ve heard I’m not supposed to say that to Gen Zs and I know every grad class hears it, but every other grad class has been lied to. We are the special ones and here’s why:

We were the chosen class to move from Grade 6 straight to the high school for Grade 7.

We didn’t get the elementary graduation we expected, either. We were never the oldest at the elementary school, but instead went to the bottom of the food chain as the youngest class George Elliot had ever seen.

Our introduction to high school was also unique in that it was the year of the (teachers’) strike so there was no orientation, but summer vacation was extended!

We got to experience the first SD23 snow day in decades, which might have been why we pushed so hard for another one this year.

And we were the first class saved from the stress of provincial exams. And so, we should’ve expected this cherry on top to conclude our wacky years of education.

Yes, I’m talking about the global pandemic that has been separating us since spring break. Our senioritis was literally treated by medical professionals with quarantine.

We are not an ordinary grad class, but we’ve overcome every obstacle that we’ve been hit with.

But on a serious note: I wasn’t anticipating the love and commitment our teachers have shown to us. They’ve sacrificed their mornings and lunch breaks to help us with homework, evenings to give extra time on tests or projects, and weekends to chaperone leadership conferences, tournaments, band trips and academic competitions.

Even now during a global crisis, they’re working around the clock to find memorable ways to celebrate us. George Elliot bus drivers, secretaries, janitors, CEAs and teachers: I hope you know how much we appreciate you and all that you’ve done for us. A lot of our success is owed to you guys, thank you.

I can’t remember if I first heard this phrase in chemistry or English: “You can’t control the problems you face but you can control your reaction.” Either way, I believe it’s quite applicable during this time.

A good example of this philosophy is kintsugi, the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold, silver, or platinum adhesive fill. When done right, it transforms the broken shards of pottery into a breathtaking display of art even more beautiful than before. I believe kintsugi can also be applied to our expectations, relationships and hearts. Not literally of course, that’s morbid.

My point is, don’t be afraid of your breaking point.

Rock bottom is a strong foundation on which to build yourself up again.

Failure is inevitable but you get to choose the impact it has on your life.

It feels better to be loved for who you are instead of who you pretend to be. I wish I had realized how much time I was wasting trying to fit in. I wish I could go back and see the heart behind each of you sooner. I wish I had understood the power of an apology. I wish I had gotten more of those deep conversations. I wish I was confident enough to be vulnerable.

But that’s all a part of learning and growing. There’s no going back, only moving forward. So, how will you choose to live on? I want us to be a generation that doesn’t hold back. Shoot high and miss because it’s better than shooting low and hitting. Tell your friends how much they mean to you.

Don’t let your pride get in the way of your joy. This is your life, you decide how to live it. Be someone you are proud of.

Our six-year high school journey ended on March 13.

There was no way of knowing that would be our last normal day together. I can’t thank you enough for all the joy you brought me, all the lessons you’ve taught me, and how much you all mean to me. You have been the cause of some of the best days of my life and been my support on some of the worst. We have been a family for a third of our lives.

During the really dark times, we were there for each other, through it all. During great times we were together celebrating and making memories. You have been my life for the past six years, and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye to all of that on some random Friday.

Now, I’ll use that Friday as a reminder to live every day like it’s the last, as cheesy as that is. There isn’t always a next time, and there are no retests in the real world. I hope for all of you a life free of regret and full of love. Waste no time with judgment or stigma, be genuine, be kind, be selfless and humble. Continue to learn from others, and grow better each day.

I need to stay loyal to my roots, so this last quotation was coined by Shaggy in the new Scooby Doo movie: “People can grow. But it doesn’t mean that we’re growing apart.”

We do have different lives ahead of us, we’ll find new friends and move to new places, but we’re still a grad family.

If or when we see each other again, I hope we can continue from where we left off.

We may not be involved in each other’s journeys after this, but we will always be a stepping stone within their path.

I love you all, and I am so proud to call you my grad class.

I can’t wait to read about how you have chosen to move forward and change the world.

See the full speech on the Lake Country Calendar’s website.

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