From the first day of high school, as the youngest and afraid of what was to come, the grade 9’s were unsure of the challenges they would face. Now in their final days left of high school, they are the oldest students and role models for the young. This year’s 2021 graduates are set to take on the real world and endeavor to turn what they have learned into success.

This year has been difficult for everyone, with COVID-19 causing multiple setbacks for certain events and activities, this year’s graduating class has most definitely overcome many obstacles. Unfortunately, this year’s grade 12’s did not have any official sporting seasons, musical showcases, or spirit assemblies, all activities that make great memories. The global pandemic limited the most common events that take place in a traditional school year. Although the Riverside community of teachers, administrators, librarians, custodians, and secretaries have all contributed in some way to make the grade 12 graduation activities as special as possible, a few teachers have taken charge and planned some COVID-19 friendly celebrations to honour the students.

Social Studies teacher Ms. Raquel Chin has been Riverside’s Grad Committee leader for the past 12 years and has put in an exceptional amount of time and effort towards this year’s graduates. Although, it hasn’t been very easy. Due to this year’s quarter system, not all the students who took part in the grad committee were at school at the same time, resulting in a lack of in-person meetings. Ms. Chin commented that the last three months of this year were especially challenging compared to previous years. “We started organizing and planning events with restrictions we had never dealt with before. It was much more difficult to create momentum and achieve our ideas,” said Chin. Despite these challenges they were still able to host fundraisers, celebrate spirit week and create grad wear. Ms. Chin also mentioned that the last week of June is dedicated to the graduates. Starting on Monday, June 21 is commencement, Tuesday is a montage of grad videos, Wednesday is dress up in grad gear, Thursday is the teacher parade, Friday is virtual awards and Sunday is virtual commencement. Vice-principal J.J. Hyde added that on “Sunday the 27th, a video will be released which will include the salutatorian and valedictorian speeches, and congratulatory messages from the Superintendent, Principal, and Mayor of Port Coquitlam.” On the Monday, commencement will take place all day at Riverside, where a family group of four will get to take part and see their graduate cross the stage. Normally grad activities also include a dinner dance at a downtown Vancouver hotel, but sadly not this year due to COVID-19.

Balloon arch for pictures in front of student parking lot entrance.

English and Leadership teacher Ms. Adriene Chapell also went the extra mile this year, along with French teachers Mme. Helaine Lo, Mme. Kelly Langford and Automotive teacher M. Abraham Kang. Each of which helped create a special surprise for the grads. Ms. Chapell spoke to some of the grade 12’s in her previous quarter to see what they would appreciate for their graduation from the school. She saw an opportunity for her IDS Leadership class to get involved and give them a memorable experience. “We helped with doing a surprise décor on Friday, June 18 for the grade 12’s this year for the first time, as we wanted to do something extra special to show the grade 12’s that we care about them, since we know they aren’t getting their usual grad events,” said Chapell. Many grade 9’s, 10’s and 11’s created photo booth backdrops. The IDS leadership students Aryan, Ryan, Stella, Jalene, Leon, Jazmine, Rayyana, Elika and Veniça created four different backdrops. The first one was inspired by grad caps, the second was RSS Grad image, the third was stars, and finally G21. A few other decorations have been placed in Riverside Secondary. The students Kylee and Natalie have created a balloon arch with the help of M. Kang and a few other students. While Ellie, Helia and Karla created a banner to congratulate the grads. Lastly from this class, they have created a Walk of Fame. Each grade 12 students’ photo has been printed, placed onto a blue or green star, and hung from the ceiling, thanks to Mme. Langford, Mme. Lo, Leon, Jalene, Jannea and Veniça. Everyone who participated in the creation of these events hopes that this year’s graduates enjoy their surprises and make memories that will last a lifetime.

A big thank you goes out to everyone who has given numerous hours throughout their days to plan and accomplish each task required. On behalf of everyone at Riverside Secondary, we wish the biggest congratulations to the grad class of 2021. 13 years later, you finally did it!