Being the last graduating class at Alberni District Secondary School (ADSS) could be like a funeral, but really it’s more like a wake.
“It’s like a funeral in a way, a kind of mourning,” says Derrick Van Viegen, master of ceremonies for this year’s graduation ceremonies. “But it’s a celebration too. It’s going to be explosive.”
Ryan Hart, valedictorian and co-chair of the grad committee, agrees.
“We want it to be the best, but we also want to remember the past with respect.”
The 267 graduates of the ADSS Class of 2012 hope to do just that at their ceremonies on Friday, June 29.
They are the last class to graduate at ADSS, as the school officially closes this summer. In the fall, students will head to the class at the new school erected near 10th Avenue and Roger Street.
But there are no hard feelings for the grads who won’t attend the new school.
“We were either going to be the first grad class in the new school or the last one in the old school,” says Hart. “This is better, because we can say goodbye.”
Van Viegen is a little disappointed.
“My sister is going to the new school. Yeah, I feel a little gypped,” he laughs. But he adds that life at ADSS hasn’t been about the physical building.
“I would describe the four years as a great change,” says Van Viegen. “Really new and really remarkable. You become a part of the community. The students, the teachers, the kindness. It is exciting now because we are becoming a part of a memory. I have never felt this good … it’s very cool.”
“High school has been an ongoing process, each year builds and you get the excitement,” says Hart. “This year has been the best year. We are not just ending high school, we are ending a part of life … it’s over, now what? That’s exciting.”
Hart says the Class of 2012 is special.
“I feel like this class is different from other classes,” says Hart. “Maybe we are not the most academic class, but (we) have changed a lot,” he says of his classmates.
“I think a lot of them are going to go far. Each step they take is going to take them to new places.”
Van Viegen says the class has enjoyed its high school years.
“We’re quite a rowdy bunch but that’s a good thing,” says Van Viegen.
“They are enjoying their life. In my grad year I have made new friends. It is amazing how close you get to your classmates. Now it’s hard to imagine not seeing these people again.”
Those people include the staff at ADSS, says Hart.
“When you are graduating, you have fun with the teachers. They know you and they want to work with you,” says Hart.
“They give you that help if you need it. I like how the teachers prepare you. They want to send out the best they can.”
Van Viegen adds, “it’s part of that community feel. We are in it together.”
As their own high school careers come to a close, the boys have some advice for those who will come after them.
“Have fun, it’s going to go by fast,” counsels Hart. “Of course go to classes; you have to pass them. But have fun.”
Van Viegen agrees.
“Have fun with it. It is serious, but you are graduating. It’s really big, so make it big.”
One of the best ways to enjoy your school years? Get involved.
“It’s so fun to get involved,” says Van Viegen. “I have met new people this year and have stronger bonds.”
Hart adds, “You get to know people better and have great experiences.”
The theme for this year’s graduating ceremony is Hollywood, complete with a red carpet and spotlights to highlight every grad.
Hart is practicing his speech every day.
“I want to recognize the old and the years of ADSS,” says Hart. “But also the bright and new future ahead for the school and especially the grads.”