By Kirk Winter

Red Hawk graduates and their families gathered in front of their computer screens to take part in Haliburton Highlands Secondary School’s 2020-2021 virtual graduation June 29.

While students and staff would have preferred an in-person grad, the planning committee pulled out all the stops to make it a night to remember for students who have seen their final two years impacted by a global pandemic.

Principal Chris Boulay told the graduates, “Tonight you will accept one of the most important documents you may ever receive: your high school diploma. We celebrate your achievement and are witnesses to you being honoured. I know I speak on behalf of this entire school community when I say that I am very proud of this graduating class. Today is a moment that you will remember for ever, with you and loved ones all likely watching with pride celebrating the close of a chapter of over 13 years of school and the start of new opportunities, challenges and adventures.”

Boulay thanked donors who made prizes and awards available to graduates, “despite experiencing the harsh economic circumstances of the last two years.”

Boulay spoke of issues overcome by the class. “I want to reflect on the challenges you’ve faced, whether it be with friendships, relationships, loss, shortened sports seasons, a pandemic. I want you to reflect on how you have grown in many ways through these experiences, learning about social injustice and the looming importance of justice, equity, inclusion and diversity. I ask you to reflect on what you learned through these experiences – an appreciation of freedom and democracy, where we live and work, connected with each other in person … be grateful for human connections, for those who mean so much to you.”

Valedictorian Bence Suranyi, who will be attending University of Toronto next year to study computer engineering, told his 112 fellow graduates that when he first entered Grade 9 the school seemed so huge and alien, not knowing any of the teachers and very few of the other students and getting lost in “the maze that is HHSS.”

Suranyi continued, “We are going down very different paths. Whether you are going to post-secondary, doing an apprenticeship or going straight into the workforce we will all be parting ways to some degree after this graduation and that is sad to think about. But, going through four years of high school together cannot be discounted that simply because all the experiences that we have together are truly binding.”

The valedictorian reminded his friends “once a Hawk, always a Hawk. Remember that! We will soar!”

The honours and awards section of the program reflected the depth and breadth of programming offered at HHSS with dozens of students receiving recognition for winning individual subject awards, school letters, certifications in Specialist High Skills Major, extended French certificates, certificates in technological education or being a member of the honour society and achieving an 80 per cent average in their graduating year.

Megan Klose led the way with six individual awards plus the LieutenantGovernor’s Award for Community Service. Daniella Meraw followed a close second with five awards and the Governor General’s Academic Medal for the student graduating with the highest overall average. Emma James was recognized with five subject related awards, followed by Desi Davies with four, April Kovacs with three and Suranyi with three. Boulay issued a challenge at the conclusion of his remarks.

“We wish you productive and happy futures. Celebrate your accomplishments. In the world of Instagram and something called TikTok … leave your mark on the world. Do good, be strong, be a difference maker.”

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