The past year for high school students, especially those in Grade 12, to say the least, has been extraordinary in terms of challenges,.
But it has also been a time of outstanding accomplishments.
This year, every student graduating from high school has been through the immense difficulties of endless hours of online classes, wearing a mask and following COVID protocols, and restricted socializing.
The 2021 graduates weathered the storm of all storms during a year of a global pandemic, and have come out on top. And now is the time for everyone to take a moment to recognize this big moment as people recognize the graduating classes in the Kootenay Lake School District.
Chirag Mathias, the Valedictorian of L.V. Rogers Secondary School in Nelson, is one of the many students in the province who has been able to persevere, and sends his best to his fellow graduating class of 2021.
“Good luck in the future. And may you have all the best,” says Chirag.
Christine Perkins, Superintendent of Schools/Chief Executive Officer for School District 8 Kootenay Lake, echoes this sentiment in her message to 2021 graduates.
“You have persevered, and you can do anything," said Perkins, who will also be leaving the area after accepting a job in the Okanagan.
"The fact that you got through this last year and a half with such dignity, and with such class, and with such resilience just speaks to your character and your future. Your future will be great.”
Mathias was surprised when he learned he was Valedictorian.
“I was ecstatic," Mathias said.
"I was really honoured to know that I got nominated and that I won.”
Of course, Mathias’ mom Anjali is very proud of him.
“I was so excited and so happy and over the moon, because I think it’s amazing that he got chosen as Valedictorian.”
Mathias’ parents, Anjali and Chris, own Nelson’s well-loved Baba’s Indian Cuisine. Mathias works at the restaurant when he’s not busy with school and homework.
The transition to adulthood marked by graduation can involve a whole range of emotions from excitement to anxiety and hopefulness to worry. Anjali witnessed her son go through this entire range of experiences.
“He weathered the storm,” Anjali says.
"He did really well. I think he has learned a lot from this experience. Not only him, I think we all have learned a lot. We have learned how to appreciate things and how to be thankful.
The challenges this year were unique, Mathias explains.
“It was really hard to do well in school. But most of us did pull it off somehow.”
Mathias had a demanding course load this year and graduated with a double diploma, which included French Immersion.
“I had a really tough course load,” says Mathias.
Even COVID-19 wasn't going to stop the 2021 L.V. Rogers Grads from celebrating a little during Saturday's Cavalcade through the streets of Nelson. — Bruce Fuhr, The Nelson Daily
Usually, grad ceremonies and prom are just as much about celebrating the relationships kids form through their school years as their academic achievements. Usually, the valedictorian would present their speech to a supportive crowd.
There would be cheering and hugging and laughing and maybe even some tears of relief and joy and sadness to be parting with lifelong friends.
However, this year, as many have come to know and experience, was different.
“It was definitely strange that grad was distanced, and I didn’t have to present in front of a live audience. I just recorded it on a video," Mathias said.
Mathias said the theme of my speech was loosely on relationships.
"About how relationships are always a great thing in school that keep you motivated to try harder,” says Mathias.
Graduation, this year at L.V. Rogers was a highly curated affair.
Graduates were permitted four guests, and they were podded together in a highly organized, distanced queue. Graduates stayed in their vehicle until ten minutes before their graduating time.
Students dressed up in formalwear for photos on Saturday. Mathias was happy to be able to take some pictures with his friends and celebrating their accomplishments.
Then there was the traditional Cavalcade showcasing the LVR graduates through the streets of Nelson, which was packed with spectators, doing their best to social distance, in the downtown core.
Mathias is hopeful about his future. He, of course, really hopes by the time he makes the trek across the country to attend the highly respected Life Sciences and Neuroscience program at the University of Toronto, that the pandemic will be under control and he can have a more normal university experience.
“Hopefully, things clear up by then, and we have our classes in person,” Mathias says.
The Nelson Daily joins its readers in wishing Chirag Mathias and all the 2021 Grads at L.V. Rogers the best in their adventures ahead. — Bruce Fuhr, The Nelson Daily