Prince Edward County’s Newspaper of Record
July 18, 2024
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Class of 2024

Tried, Tested, and True
<p>(Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)</p>
(Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

The latest crop of Prince Edward Collegiate Institute grads, who faced an uncertain beginning back in 2020, graduated with a world of support last Thursday.

The PECI Class of 2024 was the first high school cohort to recommence in-person learning in the midst of a global pandemic. School closures, social isolation, masking mandates, daily self-screenings — they endured all of it.

A return to in-person learning was important, but the Panthers were bereft of extracurricular sports and groups, social gatherings, field trips, all the things that make school fun.

Eventually, academic life returned to normal — or the “new normal.” The class began to thrive. Thursday’s commencement at a packed Huff Estates Arena was a celebration of perseverance, achievement, and support.

(Left) Luke Louder was PECI’s top overall graduate, winning the Governor General’s Medal for highest academic standing. Above, Vice Principal Adrian Bertrand presents Luke with the Highline Produce Limited Award. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

No fewer than 75 major awards, bursaries and scholarships were handed out by local service clubs, businesses, private individuals, nonprofits and education organizations. The sheer volume of graduation awards makes PECI the envy of all secondary schools in the Hastings Prince Edward District School Board. Combined, high schools in Belleville and Quinte West can’t approach the level of support local grads receive in late June.

Uncertainty and Change

“Undoubtedly, there were times when the weight of the uncertainty and constantly changing landscape seemed overwhelming, and yet you pressed on. This unwavering determination is what has brought you here today, ready to face the future with confidence. This perseverance is the cornerstone of your success in the future,” PECI Principal Kim Myderwyk told graduates during her address.

“When the mountain in the distance seems overwhelming, remember the resilience and perseverance that have brought you this far. They will be the compass that will guide you. And always know that you have a Pride of Panthers right there with you, cheering for your success.

(Left) PECI Valedictorian Hayden Blakely accepts the Rotary Club of Wellington Scholarship Award from PECI staff member Andrew Holmes. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“As Confucius said, ‘Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall’,” concluded the Principal.

Valedictorian Hayden Blakely recalled the socially distanced start of high school. After solitary bedrooms and virtual classes, this class of freshmen were ready, even if that meant the dreaded octomester.

“Thank you for keeping PECI a safe and welcoming place… a place to have fun and learn life lessons. Thank you to Prince Edward County for your support of our teams, school trips, awards and the scholarships being presented this evening.”

Mr. Blakely said “life is made of moments; we do a lot of things. Some we wish we had never done. Some we like to replay a million times in our heads. But these decisions and actions make us who we are and shape our every detail.”

“We wouldn’t be who we are without them.”

The valedictorian told his classmates to live life. Make mistakes. Create wonderful memories. But never second guess who you are, where you have been, and, most importantly, never lose sight of the road ahead.

Class of 2024 Graduates reflect on the culmination of their secondary school careers at PECI’s graduation ceremony Thursday. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

“Everyone’s path will be different so just take it slow and do everything to the best of your ability. The past doesn’t define the future. Your actions in the present pave the road to your dreams.” 

Top Students

Luke Louder earned the 2024 Governor General’s Academic Medal for highest overall academic standing in both Grades 11 and 12. Mr. Louder also won the Highline Produce Award for a student with the highest average in six Grade 12 university entrance level courses and the Thomas Kinney Memorial Scholarship for a student with high standing in Grade 12 university entrance level courses proceeding to an Ontario university. He is headed to Carleton University for Software Engineering.

In addition to winning a $100,000 Schulich Leader Scholarship, Miriam Epstein won the Ontario Principals’ Council Award for Student Leadership.

(Left) PECI grad Brooke Spencer was the winner of several awards and scholarships at Thursday’s ceremony. Here she accepts the Lieutenant Governor’s Community Volunteer Award from Hastings and Prince Edward District School Board Superintendent Tina Elliott. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

Other top PECI graduates earning multiple scholarship awards, medals and bursaries included Brooke Spencer, Hazel Woodyard North, Holly Bryans, Holly Denard, Mackenzie Babutac, Maria Prinzen, Artemus Saunders, Lily Anderson, Grace Conley, Andrew Cumpsty, Grace Werkhoven, and Emma Hippern.

Of the 111 graduates, 51 students were designated as Ontario Scholars with an 80 per cent or higher average in Six Grade 12 courses.

Maya Leblanc and Ms. Woodyard North received Salt of the Earth awards from the PECI Student Council for undertaking major responsibilities in extracurricular activities and carrying them out with exceptional devotion.

Steven Mee, Elizabeth Bell, and Chris Kulencamp were presented teacher Salt of the Earth awards, for staff members who contributed to both academic and extracurricular activities with dedication and commitment. 

This text is from the Volume 194 No. 27 edition of The Picton Gazette
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