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Students set to celebrate rite of passage in Powell River

Graduates, faculty and families prepare for ceremony and parade
PLANNING PROCESS: Brooks Secondary School 2021 graduation committee student members include [from left] Emily Piccinin, Maria Kondra, Brooklyn Vanderkemp and Faith Klassen

This year’s graduation events for the Brooks Secondary School class of 2021 will follow along similar lines to last year’s events, including some well-received features that could continue in future graduations, even after the pandemic ends.

In order to follow public health orders still in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19, this year’s graduation ceremony, taking place on June 28, will see students and their families entering the school at staggered intervals to allow for social distancing. Each student will be allowed to bring a maximum of four guests.

“It’s very similar to last year,” said Pam Ellis, a Brooks teacher and sponsor on the graduation committee. “The path that the students will take, all of that stuff is very similar, and the decorations are unique, because they are unique to this grad class.”

In a new addition to this year’s ceremony, explained Ellis, each student will receive a cap and gown. As well, decorations consisting of inspirational quotes will line the walls as students make their way to cross the stage at Max Cameron Theatre.

“They have found some special quotes that mean something to them, and they’re going to display them as part of the decorations,” said Ellis. “So there’s a whole bunch of little pieces along the way.”

The theme conceived by students for this year’s ceremony is “fun.”

“[The theme] made it really easy to find a way to incorporate all the pieces the kids wanted,” added Ellis, “and add that little bit of fun energy to what we’re doing so that grad is fun, like it’s supposed to be.”

For graduating student Faith Klassen, who is also on the graduation committee, the theme reflects the planning process itself.

“It’s a lot of work, and it is very time consuming, but it is fun,” said Klassen. “I finished all of my courses two months back, so I am actually just working, so I have more time to prep grad stuff. I’m very happy about that.”

After Klassen crosses the stage, she plans to continue working, before setting out on a series of new adventures.

“I’m going to take a gap year and work, and then I’m hopefully going to go into social work or psychology, then travel the world,” said Klassen.

The livestreamed graduation ceremony will run from 10 am to 6 pm. As students cross the stage, principal Bill Rounis said they will be given the choice to talk about looking backward, at those who helped them achieve their goals; at the present, with a reflection on one thing that was especially important to them in grade 12; or at the future, looking toward their ambitions and goals.

“That’s been one of the additions I saw last year that I absolutely want to continue, because it’s that personalized recognition for 13 years of being in school,” said Rounis.

Students crossing the stage will also receive any scholarships they may have won. According to Rounis, this year’s scholarships total close to $150,000 for 140 students.

“There’s a lot of local businesses, local families and local groups that are all making sure that they’re supporting our kids,” said Rounis. “I’ve been in other communities, and I’ve never seen that level of support targeted for our kids. Basically every kid who applies, pretty much, is going to receive some kind of recognition, which is fantastic.”

Before the pandemic, explained Rounis, scholarships were disbursed at a separate event from the graduation ceremony.

“Being on stage with the students was powerful last year. To put it all together in one day just makes it even more powerful, more special,” said Rounis. “We know that the options are all ahead of them, but we don’t want to make money the reason they can’t be successful.”

In previous years, scholarship donors took photos and gathered for a tea event with the students, a tradition Rounis hopes to see revived when health restrictions allow.

“That’s one of the things I’m missing,” he said. “It’s a big part of the night.”

Like last year, students will also be able to cross the stage with their families, a feature that some parents have responded to positively, said Rounis.

“I loved what we did at the [Powell River Recreation] Complex; it was a fantastic opportunity to bring the community in, but the difference was for some parents, they really struggled to get that great photo, they were really far away,” he added. “They’ve come to see their kid, and we give that to you in spades through this model. To me, finding a way to take some of the best parts of this and keeping it going is going to be really worthwhile.”

Car parade returns

Similar to last year, the Brooks Parent Advisory Council has organized a car parade for graduating students on Saturday, June 26, for dry grad. The parade starts at 3 pm at the Beach Gardens parking lot, and will finish at Brooks at 4:30 pm.

Parent Tamara Kondra, who is part of the subcommittee organizing the parade, said the event is shaping up to be larger than expected, and that making concrete plans, given the pandemic, has proved to be challenging.

Nonetheless, she said, “we’ve got an overwhelming response, and it’s going to be a lovely day.”

Kondra explained that this year’s subcommittee was able to work with plans laid by organizers of last year’s parade, which was successful. This year’s event is billed as a “grand parade,” based on the traditional “grand march.”

“This is a way for us to have the kids go into the community,” said Kondra. “It’s way more inclusive; we think it’s wonderful and we would like it to continue.”

As well, said Kondra, the committee did not approach local businesses struggling because of the pandemic for funds. However, she explained, some businesses that have weathered the worst effects of COVID-19 have stepped up and provided support for the parade.

“We all put a lot of thought into ‘okay, let’s not take from the community, let’s all work together so that it is a community event.’” said Kondra. “It’s not the dry grad event that we usually fundraise for and the kids go into a closed area.”

The car parade will pass through Westview to Town Centre mall, then up to Manson Avenue before heading through Cranberry into Townsite. From there, the parade will head down Maple Avenue to the school.

“We really want to get people out in the streets,” said Kondra. “We changed the route this year so it is going within more communities.”

While some have expressed disappointment about the fact that a prom, traditionally held at Dwight Hall, could not be organized under current restrictions, Rounis said the car parade is a special event in its own right.

“I can’t wait for the car parade to happen, to see the kids in the community, and be recognized by everyone,” said Rounis. “That’s something we can continue regardless of the pandemic.

“There are some things I’d like to see continue, but I also recognize that if we can get back to normal a little bit, that to me is going to be what we all need.”

Parade Route

START: June 26 at 3 pm

• Exit Beach Gardens parking lot

• Straight up Cariboo Avenue

• Right on Toba Street

• Left on Theodosia Avenue

• Left on Teakerne Street

• Left on Cariboo Avenue

• Right on Toba Street

• Right on Joyce Avenue (approximately 3:07 pm)

• Right on Alberni Street (approximately 3:28 pm)


• Left on Manson Avenue (approximately 3:47 pm)

• Left on Drake Street (approximately 4:03 pm)

• Right on Dieppe Avenue

• Left on Cranberry Street

• Left on Ash Avenue (approximately 4:13 pm)

• Left on Sycamore Street

• Right on Maple Avenue

END: 4:30 pm at Brooks Secondary School