Graduating from Alberni District Secondary School this year is like reading an unfinished story.
“It’s like reading a book that everyone likes but when you get to the end the last few pages are missing,” ADSS Grade 12 student Ross Johnson said. “It’s a very good analogy.”
Johnson was referring to the teachers’ strike, which effectively ended the school year on June 13.
“It’s a very anti-climactic feeling. Everything ended so suddenly,” he said. “A few more weeks would have been nice.”
More than 200 Grade 12 students are donning their red caps and gowns and walking the stage on Friday to receive their diplomas.
Johnson, 18, and classmate Logan Jackson, 18, are the ADSS Class of 2014 valedictorian and MC respectively.
The two were chosen after an election by the student body in the spring. Three people ran for valedictorian and three for MC.
“I was excited when I found out I was chosen. I texted my brother in Vancouver, he texted me back saying “way to go bro,” said Jackson, who attended Redford and Eighth Avenue elementary schools and EJ Dunn Middle School before ADSS.
Jackson is used to being in the public eye and speaking to audiences. He’s been an ace news reporter with ABC News, the school’s news report in the mornings.
“It’s along the lines with what I do so I’m comfortable…I thought I might as well (try),” Jackson said Being an MC is a big challenge but Jackson is up to the task. He stands more than six feet tall and is thickly built. But the gentle giant has an easy way about him, something that he says will serve him well.
“I want to keep things light, running smoothly and maybe even cracking a joke or two. “I’ve got a couple in mind—one about the mayor—but I have to get them approved first,” he said.
Johnson’s first taste of public speaking came at the annual Totem basketball tournament in January when he ran as the rugby spirit contest candidate. He never spoke publicly much and being the valedictorian is a problem to be solved, something he’s liked doing since childhood.
“The day I made my speech to students at Totem I realized that I was confident and that I could do this,” he said.
Johnson is a French Immersion student and attended Alberni Elementary and EJ Dunn before going to ADSS.
A problem solver, Johnson is a deep thinker who sees meaning in being valedictorian below the surface of the issue, something he hopes to impart during his speech on grad night.
“You’re trying to summarize 200 people’s experiences during their 13 years in school,” he said. “We’re lucky to be Canadian. We’re fortunate to have the educational opportunities that we do.”
The pair knew each other in passing since Grade 9 and both list biology as their favourite course.
Jackson lists Mr. McLaren as his favourite high school teacher. “He’d go off on these tangents about his life and life’s experiences but they were really interesting,” he said.
Johnson enjoyed his experience with most teachers, he said, but he lists Mr. Hall as his favourite. “He made biology fun. He made class fun.”
The two have plans for post secondary studies.
Jackson grew up wanting to be a helicopter pilot. But after graduation, he’ll be studying to be a nurse at Langara College in Vancouver. His mother Joanne works at West Coast General Hospital.
He admits to being bitten by the journalism bug during his time with ABC News though. “I might still pursue that in some form, although I don’t know what yet,” he said. “I really like the idea of doing voice animation too.”
Johnson is Lower Mainland bound. He’ll be studying engineering at the University of British Columbia in September. “Engineering is about problem solving and I like problem solving. I always liked doing puzzles when I was a kid,” he said.
Like other graduates who are leaving Port Alberni the two look forward to new destinations, new schools and new challenges. But they’ll miss some things about home.
“I’ll miss my friends and how everyone is a five-minute drive away. And I’ll miss the lake too,” he said.
Jackson said he’ll miss the Valley’s air quality, as well as Harbour Quay,” he said. “I’d say I won’t miss the rain but Vancouver gets rain too.”
Graduating from high school represents the culmination of change, Johnson said. “It’s all about how we have changed in the past 13 years of school,” he said. “We’ve taken on new responsibilities and we have fun in new ways now.”
Jackson says he’s changed as well. “It’s been a long time since I played tag. Toilet tag was my favourite. I’m going to kind of miss that.”