The COVID-19 pandemic created a lot of hardship and uncertainty for graduates of Beaver Brae Secondary School. That all changed last night as graduates got to receive their diploma, walk across the stage and celebrate the end of their high school career in front of their family, friends, and school staff.

'Perseverance' was the word best used to describe the 2021 Beaver Brae graduating class as students were subject to lockdowns, mask-wearing, physical distancing, and online learning. The students persevered through it all and were able to graduate.

This was all made possible after Premier Doug Ford announced that school boards were allowed to have in-person modified graduations.

Beaver Brae hosted a drive-thru graduation ceremony which began yesterday and will continue until this evening. Students were allowed two other people in the vehicle with them, they then were dropped off in front of the school, got a picture taken, then proceeded to the stage, received their diploma, a gift bag, and a list of awards were read on their behalf, all in front of family and friends.

This method was chosen to ensure COVID-19 protocols were met and the students were still able to celebrate such an unforgettable moment in their lives.

Beaver BraeBeaver Brae Secondary School principal Tracey Benoit

“To me, this is a special year. It's been a difficult year for the kids and a lot of milestones where we weren't able to celebrate and things that would really make their final year of high school very special. So we've put everything that we have into today. We get to know our grads and their stories and over the years they become our family.” said Tracey Benoit Beaver Brae principal.

“You hear the awards today their perseverance, all the bursaries and scholarships and all the things that they worked for throughout their high school career, they're being recognized today, and it's incredibly special and important to our staff and to our families and kids,” added Benoit

It meant a lot to Benoit to be able to watch the students cross the stage in person alongside their families.

“It feels bittersweet because you're happy and excited for them, and what's to come in their life, but you're also sad because you don't want to see them leave. I really feel that we've watched our kids grow. We watch them go through some really difficult times. We watch them flourish into these amazing humans, so it's been really emotional and as I said, it is a bittersweet feeling. Tonight I was honoured to watch faces beam with pride and love and really that is what it’s all about.” says Benoit

Even though the students couldn’t celebrate this moment as a group, the students were ecstatic to have the opportunity to graduate in front of family and friends.

Paige Olson was one of two valedictorians this year and is this year's Governor General Academic medal winner, along with many other awards and honours. Her class address leaned towards living life to the fullest.

“Just everyone to you know you only live once, so make mistakes, do what you need to do, live your life because we've all pushed ourselves to be here so we have our whole lives ahead of us, we just have to keep going and we're gonna do great things in life.”

“It definitely means a lot to me. I've worked very hard for it all the years I've been at Beaver Brae, which is one of the biggest accomplishments I think I've made, so it's definitely a very special experience for me,” added Olson

Olson will be attending Lakehead University this fall and enrolled in the Concurrent Education program to become a teacher, as her teachers have inspired her to the fullest to become a teacher herself.

Olson also wanted to thank her classmates for getting her to this point in life.

Beaver BraePaige Olson

Alongside Olson, Ethan Belrose was chosen as one of this year's valedictorians. His address was steered towards the aspect of perseverance.

“We all did it together as a class even though there was a whole pandemic, we still managed to do it all together and stay connected and do it together,” noted Belrose

“The last two months we've been online and now we get to have that moment together. Even though we were not necessarily physically together, we're kind of altogether graduating as a class,” added Belrose

Belrose's plan is to attend Queens University this fall and will be taking Life Sciences and is looking forward to this next step in life.

Beaver BraeEthan Belrose

Beaver Brae will be uploading a virtual grad video later this week for those that could not attend the ceremony and to experience this milestone with their loved ones.