Archie Stouffer Elementary School (ASES) made history June 22 with its first-ever virtual graduation.

Due to COVID-19 it was only the second time in school history there was no traditional grad. The last time was 1940, during the Second World War.

Valedictorian Mim Buwalda addressed the “pandemic of the century” in her speech, as well as other challenges in 2019-2020.

“Who knew we would end our years at Archie this way? Online learning, social distancing, and a global pandemic. Pretty crazy. This along with the differences of opinion between the provincial government and our teachers created some challenges that we would have to overcome in our graduating year. But that never stopped us from moving forward and graduating to high school.”

Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott filmed a congratulatory message.

“Like many of the milestones we’re accustomed to celebrating, this is very different than what we are used to,” she said. “While your ceremony may not involve walking across the stage with all your classmates, it isn’t any less of a milestone in your life.”

Principal Jane Austin said this year’s theme was black and white.

“Emulate the colour black. Be strong, set goals, be protective of others and our world, absorb the learning that is all around you, at home, at school and in our community. Embrace the colour white, be fair, be independent and celebrate fresh starts and new chapters. Be a reflection of your true self and of your deepest values.”

Mim’s mom, Rebecca Krawczyk said it was a tough end to the school year with labour unrest followed by a pandemic. She said the next challenge was online learning without reliable internet. However, she said it was wonderful when the ASES family showed up at their door to let Mim know she had been chosen valedictorian.

“I’m really proud of her.” Krawczyk said.

Mim definitely felt she had missed out on some things during this pandemic end to Grade 8, including the class trip to Niagara Falls.

Austin said many people contributed to the virtual grad “and we’ve had a lot of fun.” Students were able to keep their caps and gowns and received Grad 2020 baseball hats and T-shirts as a memento.

Austin Davidson-Burgess was just one of many of the grads who donned their caps and gowns and walked across the outside stage to get their diplomas before the camera crew and a photographer. While a different experience, Davidson-Burgess said he was, “just caught in the moment.”

Award winners

Science and Technology: Cheyenne Legace and Melanie Walter

English: Ireland Meyer and Sofia Scott

Music: Kaelem Little and Sam Hullah

Arts: Mim Buwalda

Geography: Macy Thompson and Sofie Mills

French: Sofia Scott and Charlotte Moynes

Math: Aleyeh McGovern and Sienna Inglis

Arcadian Masonic Lodge Award: Owen Mercer

Character Education Award: Jamie Crowe

Sarah Bloomfield Award: Mim Buwalda

Allan Walker Memorial Award for Citizenship: Macy Thompson

Academic Excellence Award: Melanie Walter

Athletic Sportsmanship Award: Macy Thompson and Evan Gilbert

Male and Female Athletes of the Year: Austin Boylan and Sofie Mills

Principal’s All-Around Award: Austin Boylan.

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