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HTA grads enjoy safe outdoor, virtual celebration

Okotoks: School's Class of 2020 share special bond: valedictorian

There was paradise and celebration in a paved parking lot.

The more than 250 strong Holy Trinity Academy Class of 2020 had an outdoor graduation ceremony at the Okotoks Recreation Centre on June 26.

There was also a pre-recorded virtual graduation ceremony was broadcast on Friday evening. The ceremony had students walking across the stage at St. James Church and receiving the diploma. During the video, photos of each grad from babies to their days at HTA were shown.

At the outdoor ceremony, each of the grads attended with their families in a vehicle in a designated stall — every other stall to respect physical distancing due to COVID-19.

Not quite the same as walking across the stage to receive a diploma, but unique and special, said graduate Curtis Carlson.

“I guess I don’t really know what a grad is supposed to be like but it has been pretty good so far to have a memorable experience,” he said. “Everyone has to experience a grad somehow.

“This was a great way to do it.”

His initial plans were to go out for dinner and “have a great time with friends.”

It’s still been a great time.

“This is just as good,” he said. “This is spectacular. The moms did a fantastic job getting this organized.”

Grad Amy Des Mazes agreed.

“It was pretty cool for having to be socially distanced,” Des Mazes said.

She still had the chance to get decked out in her grad dress.

“My friends and I had a barbecue party type thing where we all wore dresses,” the University of Saskatchewan bound Des Mazes said. “I didn’t really know what to be expecting and this was great.”

Highlights of the parking lot ceremony included a farewell from HTA principal Carmen Ostafichuk and congratulations from Mayor Bill Robertson, Highwood MLA RJ Sigurdson and Foothills MP John Barlow.

The grads then did a drive-by in front of waving staff at the respective schools in Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools in Okotoks — receiving a standing ovation from teachers and administration at Holy Trinity Academy.

A pre-recorded virtual graduation ceremony was broadcast on Friday evening. The ceremony had students receiving the diploma certificates. During the video, photos of each grad from babies to their days at HTA were shown.

The salutatorian and valedictorian speeches were presented by Alexandra Hartman and Marian Grell, respectively. The pair were in good company as there were 15 students with an average of 95 per cent or higher. 

It was a unique grad ceremony, Grell said in her speech. 

“This isn’t how it happens in the movies, it isn’t how we watched our siblings walk the stage, it isn’t how we expected it to be – it’s unconventional,” said Grell, who had a 99 per cent average. “However, this is our graduation and something to be immensely proud of.”

Although it’s been difficult to be away from the classroom due to COVID-19, she said there have been positive aspects.

“The last few months have been a unique learning experience, unexpected but valuable,” she said. “We have all used the time differently – being active, discovering new hobbies or revisiting old ones…

“No matter how we used the time all of our experiences are valuable in different ways and we will all undoubtedly take something meaningful out of it, equally.”

The HTA Class of 2020 shares a special bond.  

“Though we can’t be together right now, we are connected,” she said. “We shared the same hallways and now we are sharing the same small slice of history.

“We are apart, but not alone.”

She said the grads have shared many positive experiences throughout their years at HTA – band trips, fundraising efforts, musicals, volunteer work, sports championship to name a few.

“Today is defined by so much more than the last few months, though we can be proud of how we handled that too,” Grell said. “As a graduating class and as a school we have overcome not only the traditional challenges of high school but the unique ones presented by this unprecedented situation.

“We can be proud of that.

“What it serves is a reminder that we can overcome anything together.”

To see the virtual grad go to


Bruce Campbell

About the Author: Bruce Campbell

Bruce Campbell is the editor for and the Western Wheel newspaper. He is a graduate of Mount Royal College journalism program, 1991. For story tips contact
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