Aldergrove Community Secondary School graduation will look differently for the class of 2021 due to COVID-19. (Special to The Star)

Aldergrove’s class of 2021 to receive diplomas in front of family members

164 students to graduate from Aldergrove Community Secondary at ceremony June 23

Grad 2021 will look different in Aldergrove this year, but it will still go on ahead.

That’s the message Mike Palichuk, principal of Aldergrove Community Secondary School (ACSS), is sharing with students and families who have endured a full year of COVID-19 related changes, disruptions, and restrictions.

As with 2020, students will only be permitted to participate in small-group ceremonies, limitations outlines by the Langley School District.

Palichuk noted that under Provincial Health Office guidelines, ACSS, along with most other schools, will be hosting individual grad ceremonies for students.

“Each student will be walking in cap and gown to receive their diploma with a maximum of four family members in attendance,” he explained.

The ceremony will recorded and shared with the entire grad class.

“Although this format is short and intimate, our hope is for students and their families get to experience a meaningful and memorable moment together with their loved ones,” he said.

Palichuk said grads have mixed feelings about this year. While they had time to adjust to the ideas of graduation in a pandemic, the principal said they are still feeling that they are missing out on a lot of the events student would traditionally enjoy.

“Half of their Grade 11 year and all of their Grade 12 year has been spent with COVID hanging over them,” Palichuk explained. “They are saddened that they are unable to have a graduation ceremony in front of 1,100 people as we usually do or take part in any other grad-related events.”

As different as the ceremony will be, he noted that being able to cross a stage and receive a diploma in front of family members will still be a valued memory, seeing as how students were unsure if they were even going to be able to do that.

He knows the ‘rite of passage’ of having a prom and dinner/dance will be missed, but an optimistic Palichuk also pointed out others are thankful they didn’t have to spend a lot of money on a dress for one night.

One aspect that hasn’t changed is the community support; schools around Aldergrove were able to send messages of hope and inspiration to the grads by video, which will be played prior to their stage crossing.

Aldergrove Secondary’s Parent Advisory Council (PAC) donated funds to ensure students grad photos would be printed in multiple local newspapers.

“Our staff has been incredibly supportive and encouraging to our grads, ensuring that no tradition that other grads have experienced gets passed over because of COVID,” Palichuck noted. “We have put our heads together, and have been able to brainstorm ideas and ways that we can celebrate our grads safely.”

READ MORE: Superintendent notes restart plan doesn’t change Langley school operations

One staff member in particular, Jeremy Lyndon, who moved half-way through the year to Walnut Grove Secondary, will be present at the graduation ceremony to wish them the best in the future.

“We, and he, felt this was important, as these were the students who began their school year in Grade 9 the first full year he was principal,” Palichuk explained.

All together, there are 164 students graduating from ACSS, which also included graduates from the AVID program, the three Youth Train in Trades programs (hairstyling, carpentry, and automotive), as well as ACSS’s Advance program.

“We hope our graduates are successful in whatever path they choose for their future,” Palichuk concluded. “We hope that they find happiness and know that even in the darkness of a world pandemic, there is always joy to be found in the smallest things. They are an inspirational group, and we hope they continue to show the grit and determination that they showed this year throughout the rest of their careers.”

The 2021 graduation ceremony takes place on Wednesday, June 23.

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