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Penticton Senior Secondary valedictorians sprint to the finish

Genevieve Bonin-Nadeau and Kerrick Lannon-Paakspuu jump for joy as they count the days to graduation. The two were selected by their peers to represent Penticton Secondary School Class of 2013 as valedictorians. The school
Genevieve Bonin-Nadeau and Kerrick Lannon-Paakspuu jump for joy as they count the days to graduation. The two were selected by their peers to represent Penticton Secondary School Class of 2013 as valedictorians. The school's graduation ceremony goes tonight at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
— image credit: Joe Fries/Western News

The valedictorians selected to represent the Class of 2013 at Penticton Secondary School are two weeks behind on their convocation homework.

Genevieve Bonin-Nadeau and Kerrick Lannon-Paakspuu, both 17, were voted into the position by classmates in March.

Shortly afterwards, they received instructions from an administrator who suggested dates for meeting certain benchmarks, such as writing their valedictory speech, which they’ll deliver tonight at the school’s graduation ceremony.

“The problem was, the dates he gave us were for last year’s ceremony, and last year’s ceremony was two weeks later, so the dates were a little messed up and we ended up kind of rushing at the end,” explained Lannon-Paakspuu.

He and his partner finally put their heads together about three weeks ago and began practising their speech earlier this week.

“Ideally, that would have been two weeks ago,” Lannon-Paakspuu said.

Neither wished to reveal much about the content of the speech, other than to say it will include an analogy they hope will help people reflect on their life experiences. But despite the sprint to the finish, both are confident in their ability to deliver in front of a big crowd at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

“It’s a nervous event speaking in front of 3,000 or 4,000 people. It’s pretty insane. But I’m confident in the speech and that it will go well,” said Bonin-Nadeau, who gained experience in front of crowds as a Miss Penticton candidate last year.

In addition to playing and coaching soccer, she also works at the Penticton Farmers’ Market and is active with her school’s leadership group.

“I’ve always looked at valedictorians as being such good role models, and that’s just something I strive to be,” Bonin-Nadeau said.

Lannon-Paakspuu, who is also active in school leadership and spends most of his time outside class training for triathlons, has warmed to the idea of being a valedictorian.

“It’s an opportunity you’ll never get the chance to do again, because it is once in a lifetime,” he said. “Why not take the chance to represent your entire student body, right?”

Principal Alan Stel said both valedictorians excel academically and have demonstrated a strong social conscience.

“Genevieve is involved in so many different aspects of school culture, and she’s the first to volunteer to assist in any way,” Stel said. “And she does it with humility, she does it with grace.”

Meanwhile, he described Lannon-Paakspuu as “a very pleasant and charming young man.”

“He’s an advocate for the other kids in his class, and he’s certainly represented them on more than one occasion coming to me for things and doing it in a very diplomatic and conscientious way,” Stel said.

About 325 students are expected to take part in tonight’s convocation ceremony, which begins at 7 p.m. at the SOEC.

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