2024 Grads Celebrate With Vic High Song

2024 Grads Celebrate With Vic High Song

by Linda Baker, VHS 1969

Lucinda Booth and Principal Parker share a moment at grad.

It was a privilege to capture these moments as 151 Vic High Grads, of the 168 Class of 2024, were presented and honoured June 4 at UVic’s Farquhar Auditorium. Students entered the stage two at a time, one from each side, and took their places on either side of the Vic High logo. After opening remarks, each walked across the stage to shake Principal Parker’s hand and in some cases, add a unique ‘greeting’ to mark the occasion.  Teachers took turns reading what each had written about their time at Vic High as they met Principal Parker and returned to their seats.

Local dignitaries brought congratulations: Victoria – Beacon Hill MLA Grace Lore and Victoria Councillor Matt Dell.  Keynote speaker, Vic High 2020-24 Renewal project architect Diana Studer, shared a little of the ingenuity and resiliency that it took, as in life, to complete the recent upgrades. Principal Parker’s speech was heartfelt and at times hilarious, as he shared that no matter where he goes next, he’ll always be Vic High. (We know he’s ours for at least one more year.) The ceremony ends, as it does each year,with the grads – and audience – singing a rousing version of Come Give A Cheer.

Be sure to read Principal Parker’s address to the grads…(and keep your tissues handy).  But first –

Diana Studer, Vic High Renewal Architect, Grace Lore, Victoria-Beacon Hill MLA, Aaron Parker, Vic High Principal


Principal Aaron Parker’s Address

Seeing this remarkable group of young people behind me and contemplating the last four years I think to myself…What the hell was that? Honestly. What just happened?  

Tobin’s first performance at our school took place in a cage? That’s correct. Our first musical theatre performance at Topaz was performed and broadcast from the fenced utility lock-up at the back of the parking lot. Prison style.  I had no idea what any of these kids even looked like for two years. In fact, seeing someone’s nose in 2020 was our most common office referral. We painstakingly reorganized everyone’s schedules into isolated cohorts just to watch 800 students passing their vapes around in the parking lot. And I haven’t even started on our 2… I mean 3.. 3 and a half… 3 and 3/4 year renovation. This was not a typical high school experience.  And I’m still making sense of it. For eight years I have had the honour of sharing a part of the story for the graduating class at Victoria High School.  This year more than any other I have struggled to identify a unifying story of our 147th graduating class.  For me it started in February of 2020. 

This is one of our smallest grad classes. There was considerable hesitancy as we prepared for our temporary relocation to the Topaz campus. In fact, one third of the students that would normally come to Vic High requested transfer to other schools in the spring of 2020.  With schools full across the district most of those requests were denied. As we know now, the worry about an inconvenient commute or learning in a dated facility was quickly overshadowed by a worldwide shut down followed by two years of health protocols that changed every aspect of these students’ high school experience. So maybe this is a story of resilience? We have 168 grads and there are 168 very different stories of resilience and strength.

If you know graduating students Raiker, Charlotte, Micheal and Sierra and consider what they have faced and how they have shown up for their families and the courage in which they live their lives, then resilience as a theme would make a lot of sense. I would also consider students like Sawyer, Reyona or Logan who go out of their way everyday to support others.  Positivity and generosity would be a fitting theme. I could also argue that it is a story of justice and voice. Elizabeth Rose is our second consecutive Loran finalist – a passionate advocate for Indigenous rights and social justice. Charlize’s campaign for youth health and Aviva’s organization of the environmental club will be legacies that will positively impact students in our school for years to come.

I think of our students who inspire through creativity. Hazel’s brilliance in creating works of art in our shops, or our rock stars Shane and Marlowe who make up 2/3rds of the popular alt rock band Sharon. These are artists that create with intent, their work has something to say, something poignant, something important. Fair play has also been a story for our grads. Our athletes have left a legacy that transcends their success on the field. Fred, Lucinda, Aliyah, Andre, Mustafa, Van and Devar are examples of students who have excelled in their sports and have set a new standard for fairness and integrity. Not only did our male volleyball team have the single most successful season for a Vic High team in 25 years, our program, including all our volleyball athletes, was awarded the prestigious Fair Play award by BC School Sports for their unrelenting positivity and virtue.

For me one of the big storylines has been fun. The annual pancake breakfast picture with Rory and Aviva that got increasingly ridiculous each year. Lucinda’s list of her favourite bald staff members. Thomas’s daily report of the school deficiencies. Or my many chats with Musa and Tamer in the parking lot. At one point I started to wonder if they skipped class for my benefit. What else was going to drag me out of the office for some daily banter and sunshine. “ Mr. Parker, you look stressed.  Relax.”  No wonder I have so much grey hair.

It was shared with me that Naomi Gladman recently said that the renovated Fernwood building in which this group has only spent 2 months, feels like this grad class’s real high school.  A testament to the passion and dedication of Ms Studer and her team.  Thank you again for your remarks today.  As the first graduating class from the renovated Grant St. building I believe this group will most likely be associated with the new building and represent a transition into a new chapter for Vic High.  I believe the next chapter in the 148 year story of Vic High will be one of renewal and significantly increased public interest and attention. This graduating class will always be connected to that chapter.  But that is not the story for me.  

When people find out what I do, they almost always want to share their connection to the school.  Everyone is related to, or knows someone who attended Victoria High School. Of late, more and more I also get another response. People ask, “Did you apply for that job?”  Like many of the students in the 2024 grad class, I did not apply for Vic High.  I only knew Vic High from its reputation as a bit of a misfit school. A rundown Hogwarts full of artsy Fernwood youth.  I too had my hesitations about joining the school. Eight years later I am giving what will likely be one of my last addresses to a graduating class at Victoria High School.  Maybe it is because I see so much of my daughter in this group, she also graduates this year. Or maybe it is because of the threat that has loomed over them through their high school years that I feel protective of them. I feel like the back-up dad for 168 17 to 18 year olds.

While this group will undoubtedly be linked to the school’s homecoming and to our beautifully renovated building, my time at Vic High, and maybe my career, will be tied to this group. Each and every one of us had to make sense of a situation that no one had faced before.

 To the grad class:  Each of you created your own unique, personal, genuine stories. The small role I played keeping you safe when your story went off the script is something I am proud and thankful for. I am thankful for every irreverent A-A-Ron you have greeted me with. For every teary conversation we have had behind closed doors.  For every chance I got to sit in your audience. Including when it was in a dingy cage at the back parking lot. I am proud to have been a part of your story.  Mostly I am proud of you.  Congratulations grads of 2024.

Vic High Renewal Architect Diana Studer’s Address