Class of 2021 Valedictory Address by Isabel Atherton-Reimer, Micah Guenther & Kayden Loewen

Jun 29, 2021 | Student Story

As we prepare for our next steps, we will embrace change, past and present, and move forward without fear.

Friends and family, welcome. You are all here today in support of our grade twelve class, though hopefully you don’t mind the slight diversion. As a start, let’s begin by talking about this crazy, intense, ever-shifting journey called life. 

Life. It’s filled with changes, big and small. We like to think they are the ones in control – steering the ship – when really, most of us are simply passengers, enjoying the ride without a clue as to where they are going or how to get there. Life, truly, has a way of living us.

In earlier years, if you would have told these students that they were going to attend a school where phrases like “Milk Week”, “ALSO”, and “The Borscht Newspaper” were thrown around like old news, you probably would have gotten the oddest look. Surely, each student can agree that the transition between before and after RJC was a slight shock.  

Prior to attending RJC, most of us really hadn’t thought about change all that much. Throughout the years, we just grew, letting the changes come to us without really thinking too much about it. Many of us were content to be passengers, sitting back as the years washed over us. And it worked, because while every decision was available to us, there weren’t really any life-altering ones that we had to make. Until RJC, that is. 

This school has a way of taking content passengers and turning them into active participants. 

During our time at RJC, we have become completely different people. The change, though, doesn’t stop at the physical. It’s not a matter of picture to picture, but experience to experience. We have spent one, two or three years in close quarters with one another, and for better or worse, it has allowed us to get to know our fellow classmates on a deeper level. As a group, we have been to B.C., Edmonton, Shekinah and Winnipeg, and through it all, a deeper bond has been formed as we have watched one another grow. Conversations have ranged from beliefs, favourite dining hall meals, to which of us would win the hunger games (the quiet ones). Though random in their nature, and often odd, each and every discussion has allowed us to glean a deeper understanding of ourselves and our classmates – how far we have all come. We have come a long way from odd beach encounters and near-tangible silence (third years and the man in Oliver know what I’m talking about). 

The point is this: there is no telling where change will take you. Though you may be steering your ship for the most part, there are certain things that are simply left for life to figure out. If we had not taken a chance on RJC, we would be without the groups of friends that feel more like family, and without knowing what it is to be an RJC student. It doesn’t matter whether you are a fresh-faced grade ten or a beaten down, fed-up grade twelve, change and growth are constants, and most is for the best.

It might be helpful to think about change using the imagery of a garden. 

When each of us arrived at RJC, we were a bunch of seeds ready to be planted in a garden. We could see how we might grow, and we strained to find the sun.  Over time RJC became more of a home away from home. And each of us, in our own season, flourished. Rooting ourselves in the community. We bore fruit.   

Classmates, think about your first day at RJC.  Was it exciting? Scary? How weird did it feel to join a new community? Were you surprised when we actually did school? 

No gardener sees their plants growing from day to day.  Instead, growth is measured over a long period of time. Take a moment and think about the ways in which you’ve grown… Look at the life-filled garden we have been a part of. Celebrate all the ways in which you’ve grown from a seed to a seedling to a towering tree.  

There are two more ways this image of growth is helpful. First, it sets a reminder of how we’ve overcome the elements of life. Is snow really that different from forgetting a sleeping bag on a hiking trip or sort of forgetting to study for that chemistry test? Is adjusting to a dry spell really that different, from learning to call a teacher by their first name. We have done these things. We’ve used the elements to help us grow strong within our community, our relationships and ourselves. This is a lesson that will serve us well in the next stage of our life.

Second, we know that seeds grow best in good soil. You need soil that nurtures and sustains you. Soil that helps you take root. Thank you to the classmates from past and present grades for surrounding us with so much joy and a bit of competition. Thank you to the teachers for pushing us and never giving up on us. Thanks to our parents. The ones who took care of us and guided us from birth. Thank you.

Change is inevitable, and we are standing on the edge of big changes in our lives.  As we cross the stage, we are taking our first steps into an adult world that has some big differences with our present.  This includes paying taxes, getting jobs, pretending something was funny even if it wasn’t (now is one of those times…).  These are new challenges for us to manage and tackle.  

There are other changes, too. Ones like new friendship dynamics, moving to new places, new experiences and new opportunities. 

So what are we to make of all of this change? Sometimes, when things get tough, folks tell us things like ‘welcome to the real world, kid.’ What is this intended to mean? What are we supposed to hear? Something like, your problems, issues, or challenges aren’t real or a big deal is one interpretation.  

We don’t like that phrase much, and challenge the notion that the ‘real world’ and the ‘adult world’ are the same.  To say that we have not yet entered the real world; to say that everything we have accomplished over the past 18 years of our lives did not really matter; it completely misses the point.  We ARE a part of the real world, and we always have been.  

As this new chapter in our lives unfolds, we can not help but look to the past to ease our fear of the unknown. We do this, because it is what we know. We know RJC and the people that come with it are a safe place for us. It tells us we have no need to fear.  

Fellow graduates, there is no need to be afraid.  There is no need to spoil this chance we have worked so hard for, with feelings of regret and longing for the past. 

Embrace your future. The possibilities of life are endless. 

Embrace your parents, teachers and mentors because they are the reason we are now strong enough to withstand the pressures of life. 

But most of all, embrace each other. We have traveled through this time of change together, and though we face the inevitable reality that every single one of us must face future changes on our own, we can always depend on the unconditional love and community of the relationships we have built here at RJC High School. 

RJC’s Class of 2021; Go forth and have no fear.  In the face of continuing change, face life head on.