(The following is a condensed version of the valedictorian speech given by Seamus Riordan-Short during the graduation ceremony held at the Oliver arena June 27.)
I still always imagine any sort of ceremony or address taking place in the old auditorium. It’s really weird to think that nobody’s ever going to showcase a talent on that stage, or receive an award, or realize how terrible of an actor they are.
We were a lucky class to be able to spend time in that auditorium; I’m sure I’m not the only one who misses it.
You may not be aware that we were the only grad class to spend every single year in a school under construction. We had to deal with a lot of adversity but the community of SOSS rallied together and we made it work. After all our efforts, it seems that the consequences of the fire are almost behind us.
We were fortunate enough to be taken on a tour of the new school, and it looks amazing. The inclusion of an auditorium is such an important factor and I’m so happy that it happened. The kind of work being put into making the new SOSS beautiful is incredible, and there are tons of really cool high-tech features. For example, supposedly 35 per cent of the school’s power is going to come from generators attached to our history teacher’s arms.
The students that are going to be attending the new school are really fortunate to have it. But for our class, the old school and the “trailer park” will always be our SOSS. While that actual tangible school is gone, the community itself never missed a beat. Our strength really shone through during our time at the various iterations of SOSS. While I think we exemplified this strength through our performance in school, I think the thing we should be most proud of is our development as citizens.
As the years went on, we all watched barriers between strangers fall and we became closer as a group. We have demonstrated our individuality and acceptance of each other better than we have anything else.
Looking back to Grade 8, the level of support and tolerance amongst our peers has increased so much. I think that as a collective, our grad class should be most proud of how empathetic and caring we all have become.
The cliques that so many associate with high school had essentially disappeared by the end of Grade 12. I don’t think there’s a single person in our graduating class whose name I don’t know, and who I haven’t spoken to before. We take this for granted, but I think that we are both lucky and should be extremely proud of the supportive interpersonal structure of our school that we created.
I personally feel privileged to be able to graduate from this school just because I got to share the experience with all of you. I love SOSS only because of the people that make this place, and I believe that even when the beautiful new school is completed, it will be the people within those walls that make it such a desirable place to be.
Because we live in such a small community, our student body is also connected with the people throughout the town. I’d like to thank the teachers specifically for helping to create this feeling of community. I am very thankful for the fact that our teachers here at SOSS aren’t just teachers. They are our coaches, our neighbours, and sometimes our friends.
Each one of us has taken a different path to get where we are now. We have all faced our own unique hardships and have forged our own methods of living our lives. But a common factor that each of us shares is the support of somebody. Every student has someone different. For some of us, it is a family member. For some, a friend. And for some, it has been a teacher that has given us the pushes we need to get through high school. Whoever it was that stood beside you for your experiences at SOSS, I think I can say we are all incredibly grateful for that, and on behalf of the grads of 2013 I’d like to thank those special people in our lives for getting us to this point.
Now that we’re here, the question is what’s next? I’m not going to stand here and pretend like I know anything about the world because I don’t.
Graduating from high school is going to be such a massive change for everybody, and I don’t know what to expect, same as everyone else. We’re all going to have to face things that we have no way of preparing for, and everyone’s path is going to be different. However, we can all utilize the things we learned in this school to succeed in life. Whatever “success” means to you, there will be something you took away from SOSS that will influence the kind of life you lead.
Some of us will have begun to discover the kind of person we are, or we want to be, from our experiences at SOSS. One of the most crucial concepts we can take from our time here isn’t actually what we learned, but the actual learning of how to learn. Being in school taught us how to better our minds and take away significant personal gains from the knowledge around us. And this shows us that no matter where we are right now, we can always grow and change as people.
I think the most important lesson of all that we learned at SOSS wasn’t even meant to be a lesson. When we lost our school last year, we had to undergo huge shifts in what our schooling looked like. When you lose a place that was your home six hours a day, five days a week, things feel very different all of a sudden. But with this change forced upon us, we learned what I think is the most applicable lesson for our lives at this time. That lesson is the capacity to cope with change. Because of what we went through, no matter who we are or what we are doing we will be more prepared to deal with the impending changes in our lives.
So my final words to my classmates are that whatever challenges present themselves in your lives, just draw inspiration from the fact that we’ve come so far. Whenever you need to find strength within yourself, just remember that we started from the bottom, now we’re here.