Forty-two Oilfields High School graduates will cross the stage June 25 in what will be not only be one of the biggest days of their lives, but the most unique graduating ceremony in the school’s history.
Rather than celebrate in the school gymnasium like in previous years, the graduates and their immediate families will park in a circle in the school’s football field facing a stage to comply with mass gathering regulations and physical distancing restrictions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We still have to follow all of the Alberta Health Services guidelines, but we’re a small enough school where we have a chance to do something unique so hopefully it’s a positive memory,” said Oilfields principal Chet Musgrove. “There was a chance we weren’t able to do anything so we’re lucky the regulations lifted a bit. They still have to social distance and follow the rules, but I’m glad we can make something happen that’s memorable and unique despite the circumstances.”
The ceremony will contain many of the same components as past years, but with fewer people, Musgrove said. For instance, letters of congratulations and encouragement from local politicians will be read by just one person.
“We’re trying to carry some things forward that would normally happen,” he said. “We’re still going to celebrate each grad individually and say a little bit about them and what their future plans are as they walk across the stage.
“We just want to put on the best ceremony we can for the kids. We’re looking forward to seeing them all again.”
Valedictorian Nikita Palamar said she’s glad her graduating class is small enough to hold a ceremony before everyone goes their separate ways.
“I know people from Okotoks that had to do theirs online,” she said. “Our class is so small so we’re all super close to each other and it was important to us that we were all able to get together and celebrate this accomplishment. We were worried that it wasn’t going to happen at all.”
Palamar admits she and her classmates were initially disappointment when learning about the school's graduation plans.
“At first we were a little disappointed that it was going to be so small, but we realized this is the only thing we can do and we’re one of the lucky classes that can have an actual ceremony,” she said.
With Palamar and many of her peers having purchased gowns for grad, they’re excited to dress for the occasion, she said.
“It’s awesome that we still get to dress up and show off and everything,” she said.
Although Palamar can’t bring her date or extended family, she’s happy just to have the opportunity to celebrate with her classmates and immediate family.
“It’s super unique and it is still a really good way to have a ceremony while still following all of the guidelines,” she said. “It’s something we really worked hard for.”
In addition to COVID impacting the graduation ceremony, it will also influence the theme of Palamar’s valedictorian speech.
“I’m going to talk about how our class was able to make it through this together with the support from everyone,” she said. “Even under these difficult circumstances we’re able to persevere and overcome it and still be able to do well. I’m proud of everyone for getting through this together.”
Following the ceremony, the graduates and their families will drive through Black Diamond and Turner Valley in a parade of decorated vehicles.
Pictures of this year’s graduates are posted in front of the Black Diamond municipal office and on the digital screen at Millennium Park in Turner Valley.
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