Thinking of you: Community celebrates RSS class of 2017

The Robert Southey School graduating class of 2017. Contributed photo.

A black backdrop with strings of twinkling lights, and bright gold lettering spelling the year set the stage, white lighting helping to illuminate the excited faces of Robert Southey School’s (RSS) graduating class for 2017.

Family, friends and community members filled the Southey Skating Rink Friday evening, all gathering to remember the years that were and celebrate the promising future ahead of Southey’s 36 Grade 12 graduates.

Following a welcome from MC Corralee Smith, the graduates in their finest attire, and one hockey jersey, made their grand entrance, one by one taking their place on stage.

“These are the same students that walked into kindergarten just days ago it seems,” said Connie Olson-Baragar, bringing greetings on behalf of the Robert Southey School Community Council.

Olson-Baragar encouraged the graduating students to be respectful to others, responsible for what they do, and work hard to finish a job no matter what it is. She reminded the students to greet others with a smile, do simple acts of kindness and show love to those who need it.

“Life is short so make the most of it,” she said. “Live simply and treasure what matters most — your families and your loved ones.”

Robert Southey School principal Brian Endicott shared advice he had given one student when asked how to face life’s challenges. The principal said there are three types of individuals —those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who don’t know what’s happening.

“Those of us that choose to make things happen are the future leaders,” he said.

The principal told the graduating students to know they are always in the position to decide how to take on life’s challenges.

“Along with taking chances, goes the risk of failure of course,” Endicott said. “Just remember to keep on trying and never give up. That’s the determination that produces success.”

The principal noted the idea of not giving up can best be illustrated by the famous words of Thomas Edison — “I’ve not failed. I’ve only found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Endicott challenged the graduates to set the bar high and strive to the best of their ability to achieve all of the goals they set for themselves.

He also recognized that while his time with the graduating students was only one year, the principal starting at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year, Endicott said he has grown to appreciate the personal connections and relationships they have made along the way.

“Remember grads, this will always be your community and your school,” he said. He invited the students to stay connected with the people in the community.

Bert de Gooijer, vice-chair of the Prairie Valley School Division Board of Education brought greetings to the students on behalf of the board. He noted his pride in the students for attending school, Robert Southey having the highest attendance within the school division. He also noted his pride in the people the students have grown to be.

“Many of you will continue your academic journey, and others will seek a different path,” he said. “Regardless of what you choose, we know that you will continue to learn and succeed in a way that is most meaningful and fulfilling for you.”

The trustee acknowledged the role played by RSS staff and parents in the lives of the graduates.

Like Endicott, the board trustee also challenged the students, encouraging them to use the knowledge and understanding they gained in Prairie Valley to make the world a more welcoming and accepting place.

MLA Glen Hart recognized the accomplishment of the graduates, and what it took to get the students to where they are. He encouraged the graduating class to both work hard and dream big.

Welcomed to the stage with a snippet of Jimmy Dean’s Big Bad John, arousing laughter from the audience, was former RSS principal John Harvey. Harvey spent seven years at the school, entering RSS when the graduating class was in Grade 5.

The former principal, the guest speaker for the evening’s ceremony, shared tips with the graduates to keep in mind while going forward in their journey.

“First, family is always first,” said Harvey.

He encouraged the graduates to rely on their parents’ experience and listen to them as they are the biggest supporters and have their child’s best interest at heart.

Secondly, the former RSS principal encouraged the students to work hard to become known as honest.

“Character is everything,” said Harvey. “More importantly, when you develop a reputation for telling the truth, people respect and listen to what you have to say.”

Harvey also told the students to volunteer and put effort into things that may not be to their direct benefit.

“Communities are only as strong as a group of people who are willing to take care of one another,” he said. “Show respect for others, especially for those who are less fortunate or need a hand. This is a sign of a person who has self respect and values the community they are a part of.”

Harvey recognized that those efforts towards others will bring a sense of satisfaction chasing a dollar never would.

His final piece of advice was life is not fair, and can change in a heartbeat.

“This class learned way too early in life of the loss of someone close to them,” said Harvey.

In an emotional moment, Harvey recognized that through the loss, the students and community came together to support one another.

“Sticking together is what got you through this, remember this life lesson as you move on,” he said.

He ended his talk with a brief story, how he saw a former student he had taught 15 years prior, along with his wife and son, while shopping one day, the former student sharing an update on his life.

Harvey told the graduating class he cannot wait until one day in the near future, or even years from now, when he bumps into them and gets to see who they have become.

Graduating students Amanda Mohr and Aislinn Roske followed the guest speaker, the pair sharing entertaining anecdotes about their fellow classmates that aroused laughter from the audience.

The students also took the time to acknowledge what the future holds for each graduate, from attending the University of Regina to obtain their business degree, to entering the workforce. The memories were followed with a powerpoint, family and class photos filling a screen.

During the ceremony, Robert Southey School staff and community members took the time to recognize the hard work of the students and their successes, a series of awards and scholarships presented to the students.

Valedictorian Dyllan Krochak helped to close the evening with a letter addressed to his fellow classmates. Krochak reminisced on the graduating class’ time together, recognizing while the graduates did not all get along and were not all friends, that was high school. But that being said, they made it to graduation, and that was something worth celebrating.

He encouraged his fellow classmates to give the adults in their life a huge hug, and thank the teachers who helped them through school, and their friends for being there.

In closing, Krochak wished his fellow graduates the best in their future endeavours.

In the style of Bender from the Breakfast Club, Krochak pumped his fist into the air as the song Don’t You (Forget About Me) played in the background.

Concluding the formal program was remarks by graduate Hayley Wagner before the rose ceremony, each graduate presenting their parents with a token recognizing their support.

Awards are as follows:

Prairie Valley School Division Student Leadership Award – Aislinn Roske

Prairie Valley School Division Student Success Award – Daniel Sinclair

Director of Education Achievement Award – Boyd Wagner

Elliott Humanitarian Award – Lora Fuessel

Governor General’s Medallion and Ministry of Education’s General Proficiency Award – Taylor Istace

Conexus Credit Union Leadership Award – Amanda Mohr and Brayden Sentes

Earl Grey Credit Union Scholarship – Sierra Mohr

Southey and District Lions Club Scholarship – Aislinn Roske

Southey Legion Branch #350 Scholarship –Alex Massier

RSS English Excellence Award – Lora Fuessel

RSS Math Excellence Award – Garrett Harden

Yancoal Physical Science Award – Tyson Manz

June Gale Biology Award – Aislinn Roske

South Country Farm Equipment Scholarship – Brayden Sentes

Crop Protection Services Scholarship – Alex Massier

Last Mountain District Music Festival Graduation Scholarship – Lora Fuessel

Saskatchewan Youth Apprenticeship Scholarship – Taylor Daniel

University of Regina Centennial Merit Entrance Awards – Tyson Manz, Aislinn Roske, Brooklyn Nordgulen and Lora Fuessel

University of Regina Paul J. Hill Faculty of Business Excellence Award – Tanner Manz, Tyson Manz, Lora Fuessel and Karson Becker

Honour Roll – Distinction; Tyson Manz, Tanner Manz, Janae Gerrard, Amanda Mohr, Journey Cyr, Kennedi Harper, Garrett Harden, Dyllan Krochak, Karson Becker, Sierra Mohr, Hayley Wagner, Boyd Wagner, Kaiden Nameth and Brooklyn Nordgulen (fourth)

– Great Distinction; Aislinn Roske (third), Meagan Golly (second) and Lora Fuessel (first)