Kwalikum – the class of 2020 commences

What a way to go out! CLASS 2020 will have exceptional memories for grade twelve graduates, parents, teachers and many others impacted by the unprecedented closure of B.C. schools.

COVID-19 has had a profound effect on the education and lives of this year’s Kwalikum Secondary School (KSS) graduates. Even though they were watching the news about COVID-19 spreading fast in other countries, KSS 2020 graduates Larissa Castle and Ella Yarham said not going back to school at the end of spring break “was a dramatic change in a short time.” For Ella and Larissa the “shock factor” kicked in when they heard the announcement on Global News.  

Much has changed since March 13, 2020, the last day of classes and the beginning of what should have been a typical Spring Break. With incredible resilience, students and staff have risen to the challenge of the KSS Mission Statement, “Working together to realize our full potential.”  

Commencement this year will be a modified graduation ceremony. Normally, grads and families would all gather together at the appointed hour in the school auditorium. This year, grads were asked to sign up for Commencement by accessing a link on the KSS web page.  At the time this story was written, 85 grads had signed up online and selected a desired time slot to receive their high school diploma.

On Wednesday, June 24th between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. CLASS 2020 KSS students and their families will be attending a modified “drive-in” style commencement ceremony. A stage will be set up outdoors in the school’s north parking lot. Graduates, accompanied by just their family – limited to those who live in their household – will arrive together in cars. Grads will be social distancing as they walk across the stage wearing their caps and gowns. This year students will not be handed their diploma with the traditional congratulatory handshake. Nor will the Principal, Mrs. Marshall, be moving the tassels over on their caps. Instead, grads will pick up their graduation certificate, the “Dogwood Diploma,” from a table, and move the tassels over their caps themselves. Following in the tradition of past years, each grad will have the opportunity to say a message to family, friends and fellow graduates. They are asked to speak about their fondest memories of KSS, their plans for the upcoming year, and where they expect to see themselves in five years.

Some members of the KSS 2020 CLASS gathering in November 2019. Photo by Devon Reid

This year’s modified grad celebrations have been a collaborative effort between students and teachers. “There were so many unknowns,” says Ella Yarham. Once it was confirmed that schools would not return to normal operation, students were given forms to fill out asking them what they would like to see happen. “They really listened to what we said and came up with a nice plan. Everything was digital. A link was sent out by email, and we responded on the KSS website.”   

Ella attended her older sister’s graduation celebrations five years ago. She well remembers that, traditionally, part of the fun was wearing their grad finery. “People were able to see everyone all dressed up.” Previous proms began with pictures taken along Qualicum Beach’s waterfront promenade, a walk through The Gardens retirement home, a parade through town in a vintage car or other unique form of transportation, and a walk down the red carpet into the Qualicum Beach Civic Centre for the evening prom event.

No prom this year, but there will still be a parade. The “Grad Rally” will be held on Saturday, June 27 starting at 7 pm through QB neighbourhoods, but it will take a limited, unpublished route in order to avoid a gathering of crowds. 

[Here’s a musical tribute to teachers and their students, plus a look back at a previous grad photo shoot at the Qualicum Beach Waterfront. Editor]