Dyson Blitterswyk is proud to represent the Chemainus Secondary School graduating class of 2020 as valedictorian. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Chemainus grads celebrating a rare 2020 opportunity to celebrate together

Falling within the prescribed crowd numbers allows a fairly normal ceremony to be maintained

A combination in-person and virtual ceremony will give members of the Chemainus Secondary School 2020 graduating class an experience close to normal amid COVID-19.

Today’s ceremony will have fewer people in attendance, restrictions for family members and no representatives of community organizations able to present scholarships or bursaries in person, but the students will maintain a similar camaraderie as past classes.

With Chemainus Secondary only having around 40 graduates, it was perfect for complying with provincial health guidelines on crowd sizes that can’t be adhered to by students in larger schools.

RELATED: Canadian Paediatric Society calls on education ministries to allow graduations

“It allows the kids to have the opportunity to be together,” said Jennie Hittinger, vice principal of Chemainus Secondary.

“It’s about them. We wanted them to be together, first and foremost. We’ve lucked out by the size of their grad class.”

The plan is “we’re going to have all our grads sit in our gymnasium, socially distanced,” noted Hittinger.

The students will be organized in teams of five and “we’re going to open up our old gym, the Multi-Purpose Room,” she added.

That’s where a backdrop will be set up for the usual introduction of grads by Nancy Henry and congratulations from Hittinger and principal Lori Hryniuk.

As each student prepares to enter the Multi-Purpose Room, their family members will be summoned.

Families will be out in the car waiting for their turn to come in and watch their own graduates, but won’t have any further involvement in the ceremony.

“We have family areas marked out where they can have five family members,” said Hittinger. “We’ve designated zones where they can stand as a family.”

Fellow graduates will be watching via livestreaming of the ceremony back in the gymnasium.

With no separate presentations being held, details of each student’s scholarship and bursary awards will be announced as they receive their certificate.

The whole program will be made available for viewing later.

“We’re going to create one long video that families can share with other members of the family,” Hittinger indicated.

Each student will go back to the gym to be with the other grads after their turn in the Multi-Purpose Room.

Valedictorian Dyson Blitterswyk will conduct his speech from the MPR and the usual video of the grads featuring baby pictures and more nostalgic and current photos will be played as usual to the group in the gym.

“We have all worked incredibly hard to be where we are today, and we have all made so many tough choices and dedicated countless hours of our lives to be where we are today,” noted Blitterswyk, who has the honour of representing the Chemainus Secondary Class of 2020.

RELATED: COVID-19: B.C. universities opt out of in-person spring graduation ceremonies

“The Class of 2020 is an extremely hard-working and determined group of students, who each have such bright futures ahead of them. It’s reassuring to know that our graduation will be so significant because it represents how we all remained steadfast in our educational progress, and exceeded as a class despite everything that has been thrown at us in 2020 that has been an especially tough year, but we, and everyone else at Chemainus Secondary, have been resilient.”

Blitterswyk recently participated in a CBC Victoria radio program that was seeking Grade 12 students to interview about the current state of their education and how graduation looks during these times.

“I told them I was interested and they passed along my contact info, where the CBC people reached out and organized three separate interviews for three purposes,” he explained. “One was a Zoom interview for their website, one was a live radio interview and one was a phone interview for research for a national CBC TV episode. I am honoured that I could be a part of it.”

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CoronavirusGraduation 2020


Chemainus Secondary School Class of 2020 valedictorian Dyson Blitterswyk in his grad suit. (Photo submitted)

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