J. Douglas Hodgson Elementary School principal David Waito identified two challenges facing teenagers in society right now.

During his graduation greetings June 25, he said there’d been an increase in teenage loneliness. During adolescence, he said brains rewire for social connection. He said ties to friends should be increasing in importance and depth.

“Yet, so many teenagers these days are reporting feeling more and more lonely. And I think this is worrisome.”

He said technology has created the ability to connect more than ever before, sitting on our couches using social media to interact with people in Australia, Calgary and Ottawa.

“But I think the problem here is I’m sitting on my couch. I’m not with my friends.” He added virtual connections are not a substitute for “the real thing.” He said students have to get off the couch, go out with each other, laugh, make mistakes, and get into a little bit of trouble, “or we are going to get lonely. Because Instagram followers are not really friends.”

He urged them to make their next four years at Hal High about seeing each other in real life… “making real connections with each other…” He said that should help with the second challenge facing teens – school attendance. “High school does have so much to offer. You’ve got to be there, and you have to be involved to make it happen.”

Waito congratulated the class of 2024 saying, “we are all so proud of you.” He lauded their efforts, perseverance, and achievements, and advised them to not just let life happen to them, but work hard to earn their futures.

Valedictorian Luke Gruppe said it had been a fun time but that it had gone by fast. He quoted a famous line from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

He said some of the highlights were a three-day trip to Montreal, a ski trip to Sir Sam’s, and treetop trekking.

He lauded teachers, and went on to say why he thinks JDH is such an “exceptional school.” He noted the closeness to Haliburton village, a nearby high school track, running trails behind the school, and a well-used gym.

However, “what truly defines JDH over these past five years is its people. The students and faculty here have demonstrated kindness, care, and support for one another.”