June 2003
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Putting on the Ritz: Grad 2003
A Collaborative article by SNN Senior Editors Julia Klassen and Sarah King

Julia is a Grade 12 student at Garden Valley Collegiate, Winkler, MB. Sarah is also a Grade 12 student at Ascension Collegiate, Bay Roberts, NL

Separated by over 3000 kilometers, two-and-a-half time zones, and several provinces, two Canadian high schools are preparing to celebrate graduation day with strikingly similar Hollywood themes. Students at Garden Valley Collegiate in Winkler, Manitoba and at Ascension Collegiate in Bay Roberts, Newfoundland have chosen to walk the red carpet.

For graduates at Garden Valley Collegiate, the celebration begins at 1p.m., June 25th when the class of 210 students, adorned with cap and gown, gather before their honoured guests. The ceremony features speeches, the valedictory address, the distribution of diplomas and awards, and the Grad Choir's rendition of "In My Life" by the Beatles.

With diplomas in hand and the symbolic tassels turned, the graduates are ready to eat, drink, and be merry. The GVC Grad Banquet is just the place. The black grad gowns are discarded and tuxes, suits, and prom dresses replace them. Any graduate will admit how you show up for this event is just as about important as if you show up. In the past, GVC graduates have arrived in everything from limousines and vintage cars to farm machinery and horse and buggies.

The theme at Garden Valley Collegiate's grad banquet this year is "A Night at the Oscars," a take-off on the Academy Awards. In keeping with the awards-night theme, students are recognized for their own unique accomplishments as they are presented with Grad-amie awards. "Best repeated use of illegal parking all year," "Most likely to fall while dancing," and "The best freak out before grad" are just a few of the awards that are up for grabs. As graduates pull up to the front doors of the GVC building, cameras flash and a red carpet awaits. Graduates also have the option of being honoured in GVC's first "Walk of Fame" and may leave their handprints and names in plaster of Paris.

Paparazzi ushers escort guests into the gym that is transformed into a night in L.A. Golden stars hang low in the sky, the night skyline is illuminated against the backdrop, and a string quartet plays in the background. Fun photo opportunities include the popular coffee-bar scene from the television series "Friends" and "Lady and the Tramp's" romantic dinner in Paris. The GVC Press wall is also available for those who wish to pose with their Grad-amie awards. The banquet begins with the Grad March, a time for the grads to strut like stars down the red carpet, followed by toasts, more awards, and a full-course meal.

At approximately 9 p.m., the graduates board five charter buses for a Safe Grad Party at a Winnipeg Ballroom. They dance the night away, mingling around tables topped with food and soft drinks, and gambling for big prizes at the Casino games. The night winds down as the sun comes up and the grads get back on the bus, now tired but leaving with fond memories, full cameras, and if they're lucky some pretty decent door prizes.

At Ascension Collegiate, thousands of kilometers to the east, graduates begin their celebrations in quite a different fashion. For these graduates, the celebrations commence at 6:30 pm June 26th when the entire graduating class (over 300 students) gathers at the Pentecostal Church in the neighbouring community of Port-de-Grave. The church service features readings and musical tributes from members of the graduating class, and culminates with a serenade from the Grad Choir, who this year will perform ‘Thank You for Being a Friend’ from the popular television series ‘The Golden Girls’.

After the service, more festivities begin at the local stadium, the Bay Arena. It is here that the Hollywood-themed decorations are present. The stadium has been transformed into ‘scenes’ from classic movies, including "Gone with the Wind" and the "Wizard of Oz." As well, it features ‘Sunset Boulevard’ and the ‘Walk of Fame’ from Graumann’s Chinese Theatre. These ceremonies include the valedictory address, greetings from school and community officials and the Grand March, where graduates are presented in true Noah’s Ark fashion--two-by-two. For their ‘walking partner’, most graduates choose a long-time friend since many pictures will be taken of this memorable event.

In the past, a sit-down dinner preceded this event. This year, graduates opted instead to make their own reservations at various local restaurants. Once the Grand March is finished, which takes a while with 121 couples to present, the King and Queen of the graduating class are announced. Earlier in the school year, students elected the students whom they felt deserved this royal honour. After the crowning of the King and Queen, several traditional dances take place, including ‘a dance with your date’ and ‘dance with your parent’.

Once these dances are finished, the true celebrating begins. Festivities this year have changed slightly from previous years. A dance continues at the Bay Arena until 12:30 p.m., when the remaining partiers pack up and head back to the Ascension Collegiate building for a Hawaiian-themed SafeGrad party. There graduates participate in various casino games and other activities, under the guise of winning ‘AstroBucks’. These can be spent at the Astro Auction that starts around 4 a.m., with graduates bidding on such prizes as a DVD player, televisions, microwaves, and even an industrial-sized box of Kraft Dinner. After the auction finishes, graduates head home for a day of much-needed rest, and then many will rush to the local photo shop to have their films developed. Many will meet, in the days to follow, for other graduation parties and to exchange photos.

Both Garden Valley Collegiate and Ascension Collegiate's graduates have indicated what is really important to them through their deliberate choice of themes. Steering towards light-hearted fun rather than a super-serious program reveals the similar feelings and thinking of 2003 grads in schools that are kilometers apart. This years grads recognize commencement as a celebration of academic accomplishments and, just as important, a time to commemorate the friendships they have formed. At G.V.C. and Ascension, graduating classes have chosen themes focussing on the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, the red carpet, and celebrity life. The students desire Prom Night to be a fun and carefree celebration where they are the stars.

If you take a moment to look past the gowns, the hair appointments, and all that goes into making us feel like celebrities on our big day, you will see the emotional cords that are at the heart of our celebrations. Graduation marks the end of a chapter and for some of us brings a departure from the secure haven of family, friends, and familiar places. As we emulate the rich and famous for this one day, we seek to relax in a fairytale land where we are Cinderellas and Prince Charmings.

Graduation is about more than visiting beauty salons and dress boutiques, having a big parties, or even getting diplomas. It is a transition between childhood and adulthood, a final farewell bash after the years of school we sometimes doubted would ever end. Graduation is the true beginning of the ‘rest of our lives’. For one evening, we celebrate, and then we leave childhood and enter a world of independence and adult responsibilities.

To all graduates in 2003, we wish you good luck with your future endeavours. To those of you who helped us to reach this momentous occasion, we extend a sincere thank you. And to the rest of the world, we say "Roll out the carpet!" Here comes the Class of 2003!


Garden Valley Collegiate
Ascension Collegiate


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