There was a winter storm warning and travel advisory up for much of the North Peace Friday, but neither blowing snow, nor bitter temperatures could cool the warm feelings present at Prespatou Elementary Secondary School, as the community honoured its graduating class of 2015. A small, rural community located about 90 kilometers north of Fort St John, Prespatou has always taken pride in maintaining its own distinct character. Holding graduation ceremonies at the end of first semester is just one of the ways their school has adapted to its community's needs and desires.
I was honoured to be invited to address the 21 students who crossed the stage receiving their graduation certificates. The class' grad theme was "life is black and white, now you fill in the colours". It was quickly evident that this year's grads are certainly a colorful bunch, and that already many of them have big plans for their futures. What was also in evidence, was the tremendous pride parents and families have in the accomplishments of their children. The hall was packed with family and community members. It was obvious that graduation is a tremendously important milestone for this community, and that no one was going to let a little weather stop the celebration.
The Fraser Institute rankings are not often kind to schools like Prespatou. By their ways of measuring, such schools consistently are listed near the bottom end of the scale. I would suggest that ceremonies like the one I attended this week show just how flawed such rankings are. Prespatou School boasts a near 100% graduation rate every year. Small community schools allow for more meaningful relationships between students and and staff. They are more attuned to community needs and values, and they are able to adapt and fine tune programs to better meet student needs.
Connections run deep. Friday's ceremony included letters of congratulation from many teachers past as well as heart felt testimonials from current staff. Learning becomes a partnership, with students making just as much of an impression on their teachers as the other way around. There is genuine pride in accomplishment shared by students, staff and families. Such pride and commitment is clearly a measure of success that defies more traditional metrics. Starting as soon as next week, students will be taking what they've learned forward into jobs, additional studies and any number of opportunities, secure in the knowledge that they are high school graduates.
As I addressed the Prespatou graduates, I congratulated them on the forward thinking and planning that allowed them to be our first grads of 2015. Over the next five months, I am confident that our other grade 12 students will be diligently working towards meeting their own graduation requirements. The ceremonies that will follow in June may take place at a warmer time of year, but the Prespatou grad class has set a high standard of pride and performance for them to follow. I look forward to seeing how well they meet the challenge!