For 35 students, their high school graduation was a special milestone – they were the final students to graduate from North Colchester High School.
Or should be as a new school is set to open in 2018.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Matthew Smith, who was named the valedictorian for the Class of 2017. “All of my family graduated from here.”
“Being the last class makes it more special,” added Brooke Brown. “It’s exciting, but it’s also nerve wracking. For a lot of us, we all grew up together since primary.”
“We’ve been in the same class since primary,” Smith said of his fellow graduate, both of whom received entrance scholarships for the University of New Brunswick.
Smith, Brown and their fellow classmates were the __th class to graduate from North Colchester High School, just prior to a School Memories weekend for the community to reminisce and say goodbye.
Sitting in the gymnasium just before their ceremony, Smith and Brown looked back at their time at the school, each choosing a favourite memory.
“For me, it was a basketball game against Pugwash,” smiled Smith. “We held regionals last year. I remember it really well. My friend and I were late to the game, and we were starters. We were a little late, but we made it, and it was a really close game. The gym was just packed.
“It was the regional final, which we ended up losing. But that doesn’t matter. It was just fun.”
Because of the work-to-rule action initiated earlier in the year by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, a number of activities went to the wayside, but the student council, of which Brown was president, still hosted their winter carnival.
“We were playing a game of tug-of-war and I remember a Grade 7 student saying it was the most fun winter carnival they’ve ever had,” said Brown. “It’s the little things. They were so happy and smiling, it makes you feel good.”
For his valedictory address, Smith said he wanted to offer a piece of advice for his classmates, all while making every one of them feel connected.
“I want them to remember the times we spent together,” he said.
With the neighbouring school in River John closing, several students enrolled in North Colchester High School.
“I want to make them feel like they’re a part of us,” said Smith.
Addressing the standing-room only crowd, the valedictorian, who won the Governor General Award, said it seemed like that day would never arrive.
“Now that we are here, it feels like it all went by in the blink of an eye,” he said, before thanking the teachers and staff throughout the years for putting up with he and his classmates.
“You have morphed us into better versions of ourselves. You have helped shape us all into valuable members of society. For this, we are grateful.”
Smith said the graduating class was full of talent, citing musicians, artists, athletes, mechanics and a computer game designer among them.
Extracurriculars, he said, are important to the class, with many at the “heart of nearly all the teams, groups and clubs this school has to offer.”
He said it’s the strong leadership skills the students have, which have also lead to countless volunteer hours, “not only to better ourselves but to give a little back to our community.”
He acknowledged the community’s support for their clubs and groups, and said the students were thankful. Without their support, he said, many wouldn’t exist.
But to his fellow grads, his message was simple.
“Stay humble,” he said.
“Nothing great comes easily in life. You have to work for it. Do not let others tell you what you can and cannot achieve. Set expectations for yourself and exceed them. Never settle for less than what you think you deserve in all aspects of your lives. You will go on to do things you will regret, you will do things you wish you could do every day for the rest of your life. These things you do will define who you are. You will make mistakes, you will get stressed, you will make incredible memories. Never second guess who you are, and embrace who you will become.”