Grade 12 student Belle Grant wants to make Remembrance Day this year a participatory experience for her fellow students and herself.
“I’ll be able to talk about my grandpa and how he fought in the Second World War on the fighter jets,” Grant said. “It shows that this actually matters, this affected my family. I want people to realize that it’s important, it’s not just a slide show of people we don’t really know.”
Grant has seen organizers improve upon Remembrance Day ceremonies at each year she has attended Princess Margaret Secondary School and now, in her senior year, she’s teamed up with Grade 9 student Grace Robinson to take it a step further.
In past years, the student body commemorated the day by travelling to Penticton’s cenotaph to pay respect, and also held a ceremony on the shores of Skaha Lake where the sand was lined with white crosses.
“And then this year we’re going extreme,” Grant said.
“We’re bussing the entire school up Evergreen Drive,” said Robinson.
Remembrance Day is a civic holiday, so the school ceremony takes place a day early, on Nov. 10, with performances from the Penticton community choir.
Four stations will be set up on the hill above Evergreen Drive. Students will be separated by grade and walk through each station to experience different aspects of Canada and Penticton’s military history.
“It’s like you walk through a story,” Robinson said. “Each grade will go through and we all end up at the same spot at the end where there’s a very nice view.”
“And we’re going to let each grade go through one at a time so it won’t be as many people at each station,” Grant said.
At one of the stations, Grant and Robinson have arranged for a slam poetry reading relating to Remembrance Day, written by Grade 12 English students. Another station will give each student an opportunity to share their personal connection to Canada’s military history.
“People will stand up and say the names of their loved ones who have been involved with the armed forces and I think it will be really good for everybody to connect like that,” said Belle.
Robinson will be composing a letter which delves into a soldier’s point of view throughout the ages, exploring the evolving ambitions of army men from the First World War up to the modern forces.
“I’ve read through a stack of letters and many different perspectives so I can understand what they were thinking about while they were there, and the main reasons on why they did go,” Robinson said. “I’ll be looking at one soldier from past and one from modern day; why Canada was worth fighting for in the past and why it continues to be worth fighting for today.”
Students will also experience a station where famous and powerful speeches delivered during the Second World War by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and others will be rebroadcast.
“I think everybody will interpret it a little bit differently,” Grant said.
Around 11 a.m., the student population will amass for a closing ceremony.
“We all come together at the same spot at the end and it’s such a nice view,” Grant said. “You can see the whole entire valley almost.”
Grant and Belle want the ceremony to help their peers sympathize and empathize with those whose sacrifices contributed to the freedoms now enjoyed by Canadians, some of whom were the same age as Grade 12 students.
“It’s about remembering people who fought for our countries in trenches, with broken legs, watching their best friends blow up beside them; all this awful stuff, and they were doing it for their country,” Grant said. “We can undergo a little bit of discomfort (walking and standing outside) to thank them.”
“It’s important for us as a school community to think somewhat in the same way,” Robinson said. “Having a common goal brings our school together as a community and it makes the school a better place.”
Robinson and Grant are also inviting the public to be part of their ceremony.
“We would love it for the community to come,” said Grant. “It’s a bit of a walk but if you’re able and willing to go, please join us.”
Students will begin going through the stations earlier in the day, and the public is welcome to participate by arriving before 10:10 a.m. To access the site, follow Pineview Road to Evergreen Drive, and then to the end of the road.