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Students at Osoyoos Secondary School celebrate graduation 2014
Fifty-four students at Osoyoos Secondary School (OSS) celebrated their graduation Thursday night at the school, many of them receiving multiple awards, bursaries and scholarships to recognize their achievements.
Graduation took place despite the ongoing labour dispute that kept most teachers away from the ceremony.
Peter Gajda, who delivered the keynote address, was the only striking teacher to play an active role in the ceremony.
Gajda said he limited his participation to the address, which had been agreed to long before the strike, and which had the support of his teacher colleagues.
Other teachers, he said, chose not to participate because this was a way the teachers could send a message to the government that because they were locked out, they couldn’t be there. The government, he said, couldn’t have it both ways by locking out teachers and then expecting them to participate in the graduation.
“Please don’t take the other teachers’ absence from this event as a sign that they don’t care about you,” Gajda told the graduates in his speech. “We all care very much, not just about your grades or test scores, but about you as a person.”
The evening also saw the valedictory address delivered by the tall Brian Malcolm and the diminutive Shelby Schroeter, who evened things up by standing on a crate. The two joked about the contrast.
“At every moment, we are constantly evolving,” said Schroeter. “None of us were the exact same as we were a moment ago, let alone five years ago. We have all grown so much and some like Robin have grown taller.”
“And others like Shelby have stayed the same size and grown much more intellectually,” Malcolm quickly added.
The two also emphasized a point also made by other speakers – take chances even when the odds of failure outweigh the odds of success, and make mistakes, but don’t dwell on them. Learn and grow from them.
Greetings were delivered by School Board Chair Marieze Tarr, federal MP Alex Atamanenko and Mayor Stu Wells. Principal Mike Safek presented certificates while Vice Principal Shannon Miller led the awards ceremony. Safek also delivered closing remarks.
Among the numerous awards presented was a $5,000 scholarship received by Vriti Chawla toward her attendance at University of British Columbia (UBC). That award came about as a result of Gajda receiving the McEwan Family Teacher Recognition Award earlier this spring. Gajda was asked to nominate a current student planning to attend UBC to receive the award.
Chawla said she had no idea she was receiving the award until her name was called out at the ceremony. She said she was pleased and honoured to receive it.
“It’s a brilliant honour to get this, especially from him,” she said, referring to Gajda.
Chawla said she plans to pursue a bachelor of sciences from UBC Okanagan and she may then continue into sciences or law.
In her greetings to the students, Tarr urged them never to give up their dreams and to always make sure there was something in their lives they could look forward to.
He said she hopes they will reach out to the rest of the world to do good. She also cited writer Kalil Gibran and suggested students should sometimes turn off their electronic devices to experience the delights of the earth on their bare feet and the winds playing in their hair.
Atamanenko told the students that he believes politics is a noble profession and that those participating in all three levels are there because they believe in something.
“My invitation to you is to take part in the political process,” he said.
Wells also encourage the students to be involved in politics and to become engaged in their communities, perhaps as a volunteer.
“You’ll find that by giving of yourself, you get so much more in return,” the mayor said.
Gajda suggested that the important lesson of schooling so far has not been about academic learning so much as learning to overcome problems of life.
“I challenge you to go our and pursue every passionate interest that you have and don’t be afraid to make mistakes,” he said.
In Safek’s closing remarks, he also handed out some advice.
“Remember that popular decisions are not always the right ones and the right decisions are not always popular,” the principal said. “You will have to live with the choices you make, so make good ones. And if in doubt, listen to your mother. She is always right,” he joked.
He advised students not to complain about their mistakes or blame them on others, but to learn from them.
“This is the end of your high school career,” said Safek. “But you will forever be an OSS Rattler.”