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Moving on never easy for Penticton grads

Penticton Secondary School valedictorians Patrick McCann and Grayce Overhill get some practice tossing their grad caps in the air this week in preparation for Friday’s graduation ceremonies which take place at the South Okanagan Events Centre starting at 7 p.m. - Mark Brett/Western News
Penticton Secondary School valedictorians Patrick McCann and Grayce Overhill get some practice tossing their grad caps in the air this week in preparation for Friday’s graduation ceremonies which take place at the South Okanagan Events Centre starting at 7 p.m.
— image credit: Mark Brett/Western News

Although they’re celebrating the end of high school and a limitless set of life choices to come, two Penticton valedictorians are also feeling a bit nervous about the unknowns that lie ahead.

“It’s daunting, but at the same time it’s freeing,” said Patrick McCann.

“And I think most people here have that side of them that they want to stay, but they’re also mature enough that they want to break free and go off on their own.

“I think everyone’s ready for that.”

McCann and Grayce Overhill were selected by nearly 300 peers to represent Penticton Secondary School’s class of 2014.

They’ll focus on the theme of decision-making when they deliver their valedictory speech Friday night at the South Okanagan Events Centre.

“It’s kind of our last message to our grad class,” said Overhill, 17, a former Miss Penticton princess who plans to begin an arts degree this fall at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby.

“These are people you’ve been with for the last 12 years and you want to incorporate (in the speech) things you’ve learned in high school, you want to wish them the best for the future, and especially be relatable because you’re representing them. That’s what your job (as valedictorian) is.”

The 18-year-old McCann, who expects to start his arts degree in the fall at the University of Victoria, said the talk will also reflect on what the two — both of whom want to become school teachers — have learned about choices in their young lives.

“Education is a series of decisions that you make, and as you go through high school, you realize that your decisions and your decision-making skills just keep getting better,” he said.

Both students are heavily involved in their school’s drama program and feel well-equipped to face an expected crowd of more than 1,000 people inside the SOEC.

Principal Alan Stel is confident the valedictorians will also be well-equipped to handle whatever life throws at them long after they’ve left his building.

“You hope that being in school all these years that they are prepared to make the judgments to keep them safe and also make them successful,” he said.

“I do want to believe that we have prepared them for going out there.”

The two graduates are “outstanding kids in every way,” he added, and “have all of the characteristics of the kind of citizen that we’re trying to graduate.”

However, “It’s bittersweet, right? Because on the one hand, you’re really appreciative of what they offer to the student culture, but you also know it’s temporal, it’s just a matter of time before they’re moving on.”

Despite some anxiety about moving on, Overhill is also filled with excitement “knowing that anything can happen and I can make anything happen, that there’s all these things I can do,” she said.

“It’s just really exciting, the freedom of it all and the possibilities that are ahead.”

Following the convocation ceremony, the Penticton Secondary graduates will celebrate with a parade, prom and dry grad entrainment on June 26.

The all-night dry grad event, which includes food, games, music and other entertainment, had been scheduled to take place in the school gym, however, the ongoing teachers’ dispute forced organizers to shift the gathering to Memorial Arena.

A grant from the city and other donations helped offset the $4,800 rental cost.

Princess Margaret Secondary’s convocation ceremony goes June 26 at the Penticton Trade and Convention Centre, with a parade and dry grad activities set for June 27.

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