High school students converged on downtown Nanaimo, meeting up with friends, shrugging on graduation gowns and snapping selfies Thursday before the start of ceremonies that would mark their last day as a grad class.
“It hasn’t really sunken in yet,” said Tatum Paloposki, a 17-year-old grad from Nanaimo District Secondary School, who also called the day shocking, relieving and mostly freeing.
“High school you are kind of pushed into it instead of exploring what you want to do. There are certain things you have to do, so after that’s done you get to explore whatever you want to do.”
Students from NDSS, Dover Bay, John Barsby and Wellington marked graduation milestones in ceremonies at the Port Theatre and Vancouver Island Conference Centre on Thursday. Cedar Community Secondary School’s grad ceremony was Wednesday at the school.
Approximately 1,143 students will accept high school diplomas this year, according to Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools, with the largest class at Dover Bay with 277 graduates, followed by Nanaimo District Secondary School with 214 and Wellington, with 146.
Sofia Alessandri will get her diploma from Dover Bay as an international student from Italy. In her country, she said students get a diploma and a picture when they go to school in September but here, graduation is a big event.
“It feels cool because they are celebrating the years they spent here, they are celebrating high school and everything about it, the good times and the bad times. Even the valedictorian speech, it’s interesting because it involves everyone and it’s a class and it’s a community,” she said.
Angelina Jaeger, 17, from NDSS, was waiting for her graduation ceremony to start with friends, Paloposki and Kyla Williams, 17.
“It’s something that’s always talked about, movies are made about it, but you don’t really know what to expect when it happens and it only happens once,” she said of graduation.
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Zach Kelly, 17, from John Barsby, said graduation feels like he’s free and he’s finally moving on with his life. He plans to head to Vancouver Island University for its engineering transfer program before going to the University of Victoria for his bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering.
As for students just starting high school, his advice is to go in with some confidence.
“Don’t be shy, it’s not going to be as hard as you think and you’ll get through it,” he said.
Jaeger recommends getting a solid group of friends, pointing out that she, Williams and Paloposki have been together since kindergarten, while Williams said not to worry too much.
“As long as you do work, you are going to graduate and you don’t have to stress about every little thing; just be with your friends, have a good time,” she said.