By Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

With many hugs and a few tears, the Class of 2022 at Prince Albert’s Wesmor Public High School crossed the stage at the EA Rawlinson Centre.

The 44 graduates received one final send-off during an in person graduation ceremony on Thursday, which marked a return to the type of regular grad events held before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Valedictorian Paige Bellegarde said it was a case of one door closing and another opening.

“To finally graduate from Wesmor, it means that we are finally moving on into the next chapter of our lives,” she said. “Even though Wesmor was a very great school, it’s about time to graduate.”

Bellegarde came to Wesmor in Grade 10 and said the school helped her overcome adversity. As a student, she had problems with anxiety and fainting. She credits Wesmor for helping her stay on track.

“I have a lot of stories to tell about the teachers and the students at Wesmor always lending a helping hand and being there for me,” Bellegarde said.

Principal Gina Sinoski saw how much growth Bellegarde accomplished as well.

“She has grown so much since the start of her time at Wesmor,” Sinoski said. “These last, probably, four or five months Paige realized who she was and how much she had to offer.”

Bellegarde said her favourite memory of attending Wesmor was the 50 Cent Lunch.

“It was always so good,”’ she said.

Bellegarde said it was a challenge for students to continue their education during a world-wide pandemic, but it made crossing the graduation stage very rewarding.

“I think we came through pretty well,” Bellegarde said. “We did a fairly good job and we all worked together through our years at Wesmor. We just got through it together.”

Sinoski was proud of what the Class of 2022 accomplished as well. She said that they were able to have some celebrations over the past few months so graduates could experience what things were like before the pandemic.

“We started to return to the place where we could gather together in the gymnasium and we could gather together like this,” Sinoski said. “We worked really hard and the students worked really hard to stay connected, but staying connected virtually and staying connected when you are in cohorts and staying connected and you couldn’t be together as a big community was hard. We did it because those young people on that stage felt that it could be done.”

Elder Liz Settee gave the opening prayer while also paying tribute to the class. Jaida Bighetty gave the Salutatorian address. Trustee Arne Lindberg brought greetings from the Saskatchewan Rivers School Division. Sinoski brought a message to the graduates from Wesmor.

Grads were able to toss their caps in the air this year, something that was not allowed at last year’s grad, when graduates held them in the air instead due to COVID-19 protocols.

Bellegarde was a multiple award winner, taking home the Prince Albert Lions Club Award, which is presented to the Valedictorian, the high academic achievement Governor General and SRPSD119 Award, the Paper Excellence First Nations Scholarship.

Bighetty was also a multiple award winner taking home the Wesmor High School Daycare Award, Western Financial Award and Paper Excellence Community Scholarship

Phoenix Katelnikoff was also a multiple award winner and was presented with the Rotary Club of Prince Albert Award, the Prince Albert Optimist Club Award and the Wesmor Public School Community Council/Sask. Rivers Students for Change Award.

The Bonnie Bates Memorial Award, which is dedicated to an advocate for the Daycare was presented to Linda Ballantyne.

The John M. Cuelenaere Public Library Award was presented to Shawn Stonestand.

The winner of the Wesmor Leadership Award was Mathew Waditaka.

Isaac Clarke and Terry Bird shared the Wesmor Staff Award honour.

The First Nations Insurance Services Limited Partnership Award went to Seth Starblanket.

The Prince Albert Area Teachers Association (PAATA) Judy Bell Memorial Award was presented to Robyn Sanderson.

The emcee for the afternoon was vice principal Kim Jones.

The Sturgeon Lake Young Eagle Cree Drummers played the graduates in and performed an Honor Song, as well as playing the graduates out of the theatre.

Sinoski was filled with pride seeing the Wesmor grad class walk out.

“I’m just so proud of them (for) persevering through all the things we had to persevere through and that now they are in a place where they believe in themselves,” she said. “We are going to see wonderful things out of these young people.”

(Top Photo: Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald The Class of 2022 at Wesmor High School threw their hats in the air for the first time in two years during their graduation ceremony at the EA Rawlinson Centre on Thursday.
Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)