6 young Canadians share how they celebrated graduation after another pandemic school year
Another graduation season has come and gone. However, because the COVID-19 pandemic is still a fact of life, it is not a viable option for many Canadian students to walk through a stage surrounded by peers.
Young people across the country let it work, celebrating this important day safely, responsibly and creatively with family and friends.
CBC News interviewed six recent high school and college graduates who marked their milestones in a unique way.
Adriana Gonzalez, 27, and Devin Bowyer, 26
Adriana Gonzalez and Devon Bowyer worked at the Auduzhe Mino Nesewinong Clinic in downtown Toronto on the day of graduation. This is a COVID-19 testing and vaccination center for Aboriginal people. Its name means “a place to breathe healthy” in the Anishinaabe language.
“In essence, we think the most public health thing we can do with our degree is to go to the clinic and graduate on the same day,” Bowyer said. He and Gonzalez both have a master’s degree in public health from the University of Toronto in Aboriginal Health.
Bowyer is the clinic’s project and logistics manager, and Gonzalez supports him in this role. When they listened to their virtual convening ceremony on June 22, their colleagues organized a small celebration for them, including cakes and party props.
Gonzalez and Bowyer said that they are both first-generation settlers and are grateful for their solidarity with the indigenous people. “In our plan, we just learned that community leadership and community partnerships are indeed the key to promoting the health needs of indigenous people,” Gonzalez said. “This is just… a special and important way to celebrate together.”
Javier Pervez, 18 years old
Javeria Pervez celebrated her high school graduation in a stylish way: wearing a hat and gown to take outdoor photos with her parents.
Pervez graduated from Bryce College in Mississauga, Ontario. The Adamson Manor campus of this private school overlooks Lake Ontario, and graduates have the opportunity to take professional photos by the water.
She said she was most excited about the prospect of seeing her teacher again after distance teaching. Upon arrival, each graduate will receive a gift box containing a hoodie, glassware, a fountain pen, a lawn sign and a handwritten note from the principal.
“I am very happy that we can at least do the graduation ceremony by the lake, otherwise I thought it was completely virtual,” she said. “So this is definitely a very happy moment for me.”
Her father agreed. “They gave us a chance to celebrate,” Pervez Akhter said. “I am truely thankful.”
Andrew Odegard, 22 years old
Andrew Odegard’s backyard celebration was the result of the joint efforts of him and his mother Merilee: a huge inflatable bar with a fake indoor fireplace and windows for drinks. The family won the device at an auction organized by a local radio station in St. Albert, Alta.
Odegard graduated from the University of Alberta in Edmonton with a Bachelor of Science degree. He spent a day celebrating outdoors with friends and family.
“We made a reservation about a month ago,” Merilee Odegard said of the inflatable bar. “We don’t know what the restrictions will be. And we think even if it’s just our family of six, we have to do something to celebrate graduation. Right? It’s important.”
Odegard said the situation is disappointing. “I would rather do it myself. Classes will be easier; I will meet my friends at school and have that traditional graduate. But this is impossible.”
But there is a silver lining: this special day gave Odegard the opportunity to be with his grandparents, whom he said he had only met once or twice since the pandemic began. Since the whole family has been vaccinated, they should have given a hug a long time ago. “It’s all very interesting.”
Watch | Canadian students share their unique graduation celebrations:
Rylee Macey-Reid, 17
Rylee Macey-Reid’s high school graduation plan was interrupted by a sibling who tested positive for COVID-19, and she spent an important day at her home in Okotoks, Alta. But this did not stop her family from going all out.
“My mother woke me up, she blindfolded me and took me outside. Then I took off my blindfold and our entire front yard was decorated with graduation supplies. It was a very big surprise,” she said.
Macey-Reid listened to her school’s live broadcast, face-to-face ceremony, and watched her classmates walk onto the stage and throw their hats.
Graduated Messi-Reid said: “Because I have been with them for so long, I can’t walk with them. It’s a bit bittersweet, but I’m very close to seeing them.” From École French immersion course at Secondaire Foothills Composite High School.
She received a high school diploma from her family. Her father, Brad Macey, a member of the Beausoleil First Nation in Ontario, gave her a ceremonial blanket. Gift to indigenous graduates. The celebration will continue throughout the summer, said her mother Renae Macey-Reid.
“Honestly, it ended up being as good as a real graduation,” Macey-Reid said. “If I go to the real place, I will enjoy all the same things.”
Chelsea old man, 29 years old
Chelsea La Vecchia celebrated her graduation in her parents’ backyard in Toronto. Her mother Tracy, her father Tony and her husband George attended an intimate homemade lunch (beet salad, mango and scallops, grilled chicken and shrimp ) ). She has a master’s degree in experimental digital media art from the University of Waterloo.
In preparation for her virtual call, La Vecchia and her family moved their televisions outdoors and tried to broadcast the ceremony, but nothing went according to plan.
“It’s a bit confusing,” she said, referring to the series of technical difficulties that occurred at the beginning of the event. “I was trying to figure out the technique while trying to eat. I think I missed the 30-minute ceremony.”
Most importantly, the screen froze before her name appeared. “So I never really saw my name!”
Celebrating remotely is a strange experience because La Vecchia said she hopes to graduate with her classmates after completing a “difficult but beneficial” plan. “It’s weird, I won’t lie. It takes away a little value.” But she said it was great to celebrate with family at home.