Family and friends gathered at a riverside property in rural Grand Forks last week to celebrate the achievements of the Walker Development Centre graduating class of 2020. As the mountains to the south held back rain clouds and a breeze did its best to blow away mosquitoes, educators and six of the school’s graduates remarked on their high school achievements.
In principal Shawn Lockhart’s first year heading the school (along with his other duties as principal at Christina Lake Elementary), he said it took some time to get to know his students, like class valedictorian Molly Wasilenkoff.
“It took until about February,” he said, then all of a sudden the graduate-to-be “just walked right up to me and got right in my grill and said, ‘I feel we don’t know each other well enough.’ It just kind of took me,” Lockhart said. The two sat down to chat the next day.
“It must have taken everything she had to do that – it just stunned me,” the principal said before introducing Wasilenkoff to speak. “I know how much courage it took you to do that, and I fully admire that.”
In front of friends, family and her teachers, Wasilenkoff delivered a valedictorian address from the heart, hardly referring to her note papers as she spoke. Below is that speech.
Before I get into my little speech, I just want to say thank you so much to everyone who showed up to support the grad class. It means so much to have this happen today. I really didn’t think it was actually going to – I expected to graduate on Zoom! And thank you so much to the teachers and Mr. Lockhart and everyone who supported us all these years. It’s amazing. I would not be the person I am today without you guys. And it’s just thank you so much for all the work you do.
The work that was accomplished by the students graduating today took great effort and dedication. We all struggled on the daily – the last couple of months were complete chaos – but here we are.
Graduating high school is tough enough to begin with, never mind doing it through an alternative program where you have to work through a lot of the material yourself. And, I can’t forget to mention, we did it in the middle of a global pandemic people!
We all faced our own challenges throughout these high school years. I know for me personally, there were a lot of times when I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to graduate. Whatever the difficulties we all stumbled across, they were always overcome. And half the time they were never as hard or as scary as our minds played them out to be.
The resiliency we have all shown to be here today is amazing, and I hope everyone here graduating continues to carry that attitude with them into whatever the next phases of your life may bring. You only get one kick at the can, so remember to be true to your heart and good things will find you. A smile is always worth the wait. Here’s to better days ahead. Congratulations, everybody! – Molly Wasilenkoff