Best friends Jack Hirschfeld and Sabrina Warkentin have been selected by their peers as the 2015 Penticton Secondary valedictorians.
A strong bond first formed between them during a trip to Europe early in 2014. The two both studied under the school’s french immersion program, which gave them the opportunity to participate in a french exchange in Belgium last year in Grade 11.
“That’s when we became super close,” Warkentin said.
The pair will be delivering some final words to their peers during the graduation ceremony on June 5 at the South Okanagan Events Centre.
“This speech will embody the nature of the class and speak to the community,” reads the nomination form. “Valedictorians should be people that will take the job seriously; the speech requires a great deal of thought and planning and will be the final impression the community has of the graduating class.”
While surrounded by the European culture, Hirschfeld said he learned to become much less materialistic in observing the habits and attitudes of his European counterparts.
“I learned that feelings are way more important than any object,” he said.
Nevertheless, Hirschfeld said the thing to stand out most about his peers at Pen High was their ability to avoid assimilation.
“Everyone’s different, and we’ve all become so much closer over the past year,” he said.
“This year’s been a lot better than Grades 9, 10 and 11,” said Warkentin.
In earning the title of valedictorian, the pair said it was important to maintain a healthy balance of class work, social engagement, and extracurricular activities — admitting that their academic scores weren’t the highest in the school.
“As a school, we reward intellects and well-rounded characters,” said teacher Bill Laven.
Warkentin said Pen High is full of great teachers, and appreciates how many enticed the sharing and growth of ideas.
“There’s never a bad idea to explore,” she said.
They both took advantage of the sporting opportunities available at Pen High.
“I wanted to do every extra curricular there was in Grade 11,” Hirschfeld said. “But rugby was the only one I was ever fully committed to.”
Warkentin also played rugby, and said the girls’ team went undefeated in two of the seasons she played, and their success led them to a provincial tournament at the UBC fields in Vancouver two years ago.
“We finished seventh provincially — which is amazing for how small our school is.”
They also both volunteered for the school’s Special O Games as well as spring and summer camps at the community centre.
They’ve reflected upon it all and written their speeches, but they’re keeping them mostly a surprise. They said there won’t be much mention of themselves, rather an expression of gratitude towards the school community and the City of Penticton. And because the student body had to face several distressing issues concerning mental health, the two said they’re going to let the staff and students know how thankful they are for the strength and support shown mutually throughout the community.
Also part of the valedictorian duties, Hirschfeld and Warkentin were tasked with showing the rest of the Grade 12 class how to properly wear their graduation gown — which they said was a lot more challenging than it should have been.
Looking past high school, Warkentin has secured a scholarship at Quest University in Squamish, and Hirschfeld is looking into a volunteer placement through Canada World Youth — and he’s hoping to serve in Peru as a humanitarian and teacher.
Hirschfeld and Warkentin said they know of many students travelling abroad shortly after graduation, and are looking forward to reunions in the summertime.
But whatever time of year, they said that keeping in touch with one another is as easy as making the effort.