That is how Willem Sytsma and Keeley Dalton of North Saanich’s Parkland Secondary School, describe their high school experience as they prepare to deliver their c0-written speech as valedictorians.
This choice of words likely downplays the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on their educational experience.
Dalton said the speech will touch on this past, but won’t be its focus, noted Sytsma. “(It) is not a COVID-centred speech because everybody is tired of hearing that,” said Sytsma. “So we are really focusing on the positive things. Our speech is fun — at least we think so.”
If these words sound confident, they also point to a larger purpose. “We really want to instill confidence in our grad class,” said Dalton.
Both Sytsma and Dalton certainly project a good deal of it. Sytsma, for example, balanced high school sports (basketball) with Parkland’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Program, while also producing mainly rap music with clients on both sides of the Atlantic in the United Kingdom as well as the United States.
Self-taught, Sytsma started to pursue music producing after starting out with the cello, before switching to piano, while always maintaining his musical ear. This pursuit of the new also appears to run through his academic choice.
Sytsma will begin his university career in the Faculty of Arts at the University of British Columbia but hopes to switch to engineering, after having picked up some additional math classes.
As for Dalton, she plans to stay closer to home, where she will take social science courses at the University of Victoria.
“I mostly look forward to UVic to hone in on what I actually want to be doing and then see where that takes me, but I definitely have an interest in law and politics,” she said.
While Sytsma takes pride in his ability to balance multiple pursuits, Dalton’s focus has been on academics with an average of around 97 per cent to show for it.
“My work has paid off and what I am most proud of is my work ethic,” she said.
In a way, they jointly encapsulate the best of the creative, athletic and academic ethos that defines the high school experience as both Sytsma and Dalton expressed immense pride and satisfaction in holding the title of valedictorian.
“We are happy to be able to represent our school that way,” said Dalton.
A can-do spirit also runs through Sytsma’s message.
“Don’t hold grudges, be positive, be kind — that’s my main message,” he said.
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