2022 Vic High Graduation Honouring Resilience
Finally, Vic High grads were able to share their special ceremony with friends, family, teachers and staff in person. June 2, the UVic Farquhar Auditorium was once again the scene of joy, pride, and excitement as 161 Vic High grads crossed the stage and were honoured for their hard work a goals achieved. Recently retired after 20 years teaching English and Creative Writing, much-loved Vic High teacher and Metis elder Jan Picard was the evening’s guest speaker. Opening comments and the singing of O Canada were shared in French and English (Vic High is a French Immersion school), and graduating music students delivered a Vic High grad tradition, accompanying all students singing Bob Dylan’s, “Forever Young.”
Teacher Sara Reside was there: It was so comforting to move back to UVic and a traditional graduation ceremony. We incorporated a few things that we’ve learned from these past two years and were able to celebrate our grads in Vic High style. Our valedictorians really well represented the diversity, heart, and resiliency of this grad class. And Mr. Parker’s speech spoke to the uniqueness of this group and made us all emotional. I stood backstage as the students prepared to cross the stage and had a close-up view of the anticipation, excitement, and joy of these grads. It was an emotional night for sure.
Valedictorians Nadine Gomez and Ahmad Abousaleh address their classmates, and the audience of family, friends and teachers at UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium.
Principal’s Speech Inspires Students, Staff, Grad Audience, and Alumni
Vic High students over the years have been blessed with some inspiring principals, none perhaps more so than Aaron Parker, current Vic High Principal. Teenage-hood can be daunting enough without a make-do school and a pandemic shifting your world on a moment’s notice. Wise, empathetic leadership may set a tone. But Mr. Parker is the first to credit the team he leads, and to credit all the students who motivate him daily and perhaps lead him in many ways. We’re proud to share his speech to the Vic High Graduating Class of 2022 at their June 2 ceremony.
I remember that May day in 2018 when I first met this class on the front lawn of our iconic Fernwood building. While many were shy and reserved, the group as a whole was …energetic. I likely would not have predicted that students like Wes and Lucas would turn that energy into honour rolls, championships and general school leadership. Turns out most of my predictions turned out to be wrong. I would love to go back to that afternoon to say “For those of you who are really worried about the next four year – think bigger.”
When I recall that day I wonder what those young versions of the fine people you see behind me thought as they entered high school. I can imagine Owen going home about two feet shorter back then – “Mom, the shop classes are on the other side of the school – somewhat notable as his English class is currently two city buses from the Autobody class.
I can imagine kids coming home in grade 9 complaining that some of the projects are confusing– two years later they are still trying to figure out where to find 700 paperclips and a hair straightener to do their online art metal project. And do you remember when you thought 74 minutes was a really long time for one class. Those problems were so cute.
Let’s face it: the last four years have changed our expectations. During that time these young people have changed buildings, and changed instruction delivery methods and health protocols multiple times. They have lost out on academic, athletic, artistic, cultural and social activities. No one could have predicted in May of 2018 that those energetic grade 9 students would graduate knowing what their favorite hand sanitizer brand is and which face covering is the best on a cold day.
We have all been impacted by Covid. As someone whose livelihood, health and social connections were never seriously threatened, even I have felt the weight of living in these unnerving and uncertain times.
I share with you that outside of my family the individuals that have kept me buoyed through the pandemic sit behind me today.
The Sr Boys basketball team proved that you don’t have to win the championship to be champions. Every opponent and observer that spoke with us commented on their relentless, never -give-up attitude. I saw that first hand. Even before we knew if there would even be a season, Cam had the team lined up at 7 am any time they were allowed gym access. His leadership along with grads Karl, Lucas, Lambert, Rainer and Linial took the Sr boys basketball team to our best showing in over 30 years.
Performers like Tamsyn, Silas, Calla, Matisse, Ben, Leah, Cian, Olivia and more, dazzled in those precious opportunities in which they were permitted access to a stage.
Ayan, Ahmed and Madison were recently recognized as some of Vic High’s most accomplished scholars despite the many disruptions they endured throughout their most important academic years.
Our front step philosophers amused and entertained. Fynn, Malcolm, and Callum doubled as Vic High’s unofficial band. Only Vic High could feature impromptu guitar, flute and didgeridoo performances – depending on the day.
But for me the most important gift this group has provided is that of perspective.
Sometime after the 2019 announcement that these students would spend grade 11 and 12 at some old school called SJ Willis, but before the 2020 spring break that transformed every aspect of their school experience, we had a very serious life and death situation.
2022 grad Al Baraa and two of his friends, came across a young man in need of immediate medical assistance. Due to their fast action our staff was able to administer the medical intervention that stabilized the youth and saved his life. I will never forget two things from that day. The young man’s face devoid of all life as he lay on the washroom tile floor. And the conversation I had with Al Baraa after the incident. I congratulated the boys on their fast action and let them know that I needed to contact their parents. Al Baraa,do you remember what you said that day – I do.
You said “Mr Parker you don’t need to contact our parents. In Syria death is not new to us.” Later when Vic PD were looking to recognize the boys for their heroism, they were completely confused. In their eyes there was nothing to recognize “Someone needed help so they found help.” Simple as that.
I have no idea where they get it from. Something about this generation, the resilience of youth or the magic that is Vic High, but these young people are the example that I wish the rest of the world would follow. Someone needs help – you do what you can to help. Simple as that.
From my observations, being charitable and tolerant in the face of adversity is not that simple for most. We have seen our share of defensiveness and divisiveness. Masks, vaccinations, quarter system. Let’s not deny it now – I kept the emails – adults haven’t always coped as well as this group.
The group behind me is politically knowledgeable and active. Students like Talia and Pita could teach me about our world’s environmental and political conditions. And despite the wide variety of opinions and strongly held beliefs of the fine young people behind me – when they were told that some people in the school feel safer when we all wear masks – they all wore masks.
I’m proud of this group. And I am delighted that they are being celebrated today. I would like to thank them for their grace in the face of adversity and ask their help one last time. Mikey, would you come down here? I would like you to help me lead your fellow 2022 graduates in the singing of the Vic High song – Come Give A Cheer.
Can You Hear All the Clapping?
Some of our Alumni volunteers were very touched by Aaron’s speech. Send us your reaction and we’ll add it here. (Click here and choose Communications from the drop-down menu.)
Wow what a truly uplifting speech. Thank you Aaron. Thank you to all staff for the tremendous job you do each and every day. Ruth Ferne, VHS 1966
Incredible speech, incredible Principal, incredible leader. Linda Reid, VHS 1977
Wow…what an incredible speech!!! Kudos to Aaron and all those who participated! Come give a cheer❤️ JoAnne Botten, VHS 1968
Aaron is an outstanding principal. Keith McCallion, former Vic High Principal
I’m in tears after reading that. What a great principal he is. Helen Edwards, VHS 1964
KUDOS👏👏👏👏👏👏👏. True spirit of Vic High. Ed Kozicki, VHS 1969
So nice to have a down to earth speech. Dawn Quast, VHS 1965
No wonder Vic High is so fabulous! Aaron and staff do so much to make it so – even through Covid and transition to temporary school. Thank you all and congrats to all the grads! Anne McKeachie, VHS 1968
Wonderful, inspirational speech by Principal Aaron. So glad to hear that the students still know the words to COME GIVE A CHEER! I kind of thought that may have faded over the years but apparently NOT! Annie Boldt, VHS 1967
Loved the speech, specially as the Class of 1974 graduated 48 years ago today. Aaron is great. Students are so lucky to have him. Lori Ann Locken, VHS 1974
Aaron is simply an amazing man. We are all so fortunate to have him leading Vic High. Amazing, inspirational speech. Roger Skillings, VHS 1968
Just a great speech. Truly a great teacher who cares! I am sure that we all remember a teacher from our years in school that inspired us and made us the people we are today. Another incidence of the special times that happen at Vic High no matter where it resides temporarily. A most memorable grad ceremony for the class of 2022. Nita Loudon, VHS 1966