Graduates at Wm. E. Hay Stettler Secondary Campus were honoured during a number of special events on June 20th.
Formal celebrations of course had to be curtailed due to COVID-19, but school staff did their very best to make sure the day was as memorable as possible for the graduating students.
Each student was photographed in front of the school separatley with his or her honourary diploma.
Valedictorian Wade Smith was honoured as well through the presentation of his honourary diploma. In the early afternoon, the students also gathered in Memorial Park for a processional onto the track/football field for two group photos of about 50 students each.
After that, they took part in a Grand March around the track. Of course, staff made sure that all social distancing rules were adhered too.
“It’s definitely a different year for our graduation ceremony considering the situation we are in, and what we are used to normally putting on for the kids to recognize them at the end of the year with their graduation,” said Principal Norbert Baharally, who is retiring this year after a 32-year career at the school.
“But at the end of the day, we knew that we needed to do something. My grad committee, the organizers, and the parent committee – everyone has done a great job bringing this all together for them,” he said.
“It’s a great day.”
As mentioned, this marks Baharally’s final graduation at Wm. E. Hay, and it proved something of a bittersweet experience.
“I’ve had time to reflect on this day coming up, with the classes having been shut down here on March 13th. It was different coming into this day because it’s always such a special and significant day – not just for our school, but for our entire community and our graduating classes.”
Baharally said it wasn’t exactly what he envisioned his final year being like, what with the COVID-19 pandemic and all the sweeping changes it brought to how day-to-day operations were run at the school.
As for the next step, he said retirement indeed marks a whole new chapter.
“I don’t have anything lined up right now, so I’m just planning to relax and take some time off and figure out what I might like to do next,” he added with a smile.
Looking back on his career has been a rich experience in and of itself.
“My first year was very memorable – I met a lot of staff the first year I was here. I call them veteran teachers and some of them are still around in our community. Throughout the years, you meet others as they come through and start their careers.
“A lot of people that I first started with are still here in the community for sure. And we have a lot of young teachers coming into our system which is promising for the future,” he said.
“I know the school and the school division are going to be in good hands as I move on, so that makes me feel good.
“What I love about it most are the kids – the kids are what make it all worthwhile every day when I wake up and I want to come to school,” he said of what has kept him so inspired over the years.
“Definitely, the last three months have been different though – coming to an empty school with no kids – that’s not why you go into education. You go into education to work with kids and to make better opportunities for them so they can go on and spread their wings.
“I would say for me, that was the best part of this job – coming to school everyday and working with the kids, and also spending time with them outside of the classroom through extra-curricular activities. You get to know them on a different level. Those are the things that I’m going to miss.”
Baharally is originally from Guyana, having moved to Calgary at the age of eight. That’s where he also obtained his post secondary education and eventually came to Stettler to launch his career. “It’s been a great community, a great place to raise kids and there are good opportunities for kids, too.”
As to the grads, Baharally said his main message is that even though they have been thrown a curve ball in regards to what is happening in society these days, they need to still make the most of it.
“Today is a great day regardless – we are doing something to recognize them as they move on, and give them an opportunity to spend some time with their friends and classmates but of course be respectful of the social distancing and so forth.
“But what is important I think is for them to still understand that today is a day of celebration and it is a day to be happy.”