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COVID-era high school grads get diplomas in front of cameras, instead of parents

June 14, 2021

Image above is a screen grab from the CTV News video segment. Click here to watch.

By Shannon Paterson, CTVNews.

VANCOUVER -- The Grade 12 graduating class at Handsworth Secondary school in North Vancouver has spent its entire year under COVID-19 protocols.

That meant no big graduation banquet and dance, and no convocation at the Orpheum theatre in downtown Vancouver. But the district still wanted to make the diploma ceremony at its Lonsdale street offices special.

“What we are doing over the course of two days for our 270 graduates is bringing them in in groups of 20 to cross the stage. That will be presented in a video to all families and graduates on June 30th,” said principal Rupi Samra-Gynane.

“They’re going to come, it will be red carpet, they will see it’s a high production and quality event. And that moment when they have the stage to themselves, they will feel it,” said North Vancouver superintendent Mark Pearmain.

Parents, who waited outside with flowers and cameras, were disappointed they couldn’t witness the big moment in person.

“It is what it is, it was a hard year for all the of the kids, I think. They didn’t get all their grad activities, none of those,” said Rita Macdonald, whose daughter Ainsley is graduating.

“They have missed out on a lot of milestones that traditionally everyone goes through, so it’s pretty different,” said Julia Kauwenhoben, the mother of another student named Nolan.

While it was not the graduation they were hoping for, students seemed to take it in stride.

“There was obviously a lot of effort put in, and that’s nice to see and it’s nice to see everyone,” said student Talia Lal.

“It was good for the circumstances we are in right now, so it’s really nice,” said her friend Madeleine Lister.

Ben Macdonald’s family dressed up in wigs and viking hats and sprayed him with water guns and rang cowbells as he left the ceremony.

“Clearly I have the craziest family out of everyone here,” he said. “Not much of a surprise, I knew something was happening, but I didn’t think it was this.”

“Think about it, for a year nobody’s been able to dress up, be a little crazy. So we were like, why be average? Be ridiculous, right?” said his mom Helen Brown.

As for his solo walk across the stage, in front of cameras instead of his parents? “I think they did the best that they could. It went pretty well, smoothly in there,” Macdonald said.

At Handsworth, this year’s theme was gratitude and resilience, something the principal says the grade 12 students have embodied during difficult times.

“This graduating class has managed to get through the year with a tremendous amount of resilience, and do it with grace,” said Samra-Gynane.

“They are an amazing group, the grads of 2021,” said Pearmain. “They have been forced to become adaptable and resilient and re-imagine what their Grade 12 year is like. A lot of them have had siblings and they watched their siblings go through. So suddenly, this is pretty different for them. But they have also just embraced it.”

As they embark on the next chapter of their lives, the students hope that resilience serves them well.

“We have had to go through a lot, and it will make us work harder for what we want in our futures for sure,” Lister said.