While they range from hopeful to comic, the valedictorian speeches given to mark high school convocations are just that: speeches.
But the 300-plus grads attending Penticton Secondary’s convocation ceremonies Friday night got more than they bargained for from Jordan Findlay and Natasha Benson, the classmates they chose to represent them.
It’s not all that surprising that Findlay, who seems to have won just about every high school filmmaker award in the province, wanted to include a video component to their presentation, but having last year’s valedictorians, Brooke MacDonald and Carl Eggert, kidnap them and try to replace them … well, that has to be something of an unusual move.
“We start with a big scene, last year’s valedictorians come up to the stage, ripping panty hose off their heads. The idea of the whole thing is that they abducted us and over the year they have been trying to live our lives,” said Findlay as Benson chimed in to explain that the theme of the speech is “never hold yourself captive to your own life.”
“Not to take your life for granted. What we’re saying with Brooke and Carl is to live your life while you can, because you can’t go back. You can’t relive it,” said Benson. However, she did step back in time a bit, returning to Naramata Elementary with a group of friends before the grad ceremonies.
“We all dressed up in our gowns and we went into our kindergarten classroom and we sat in the circle we used to sit in. It was heartbreaking,” said Benson. “We were a really close-knit group in elementary school. A lot of our friends are the same friends we have had since elementary school.”
The pain of separation from well-known surroundings and longtime friends was another theme the pair touched on in their speech, looking forward to how they are all going to be spreading out to universities and jobs around the country. In some cases, even around the world; like Findlay, who is headed to the Netherlands to spend a year as a Rotary exchange student.
Like Benson, Findlay finds this last month of school to be bittersweet, with the past and future colliding.
“It’s kind of surreal. This morning I had my kindergarten teacher phone me. It feels like just the other day that we were back in elementary school,” he said. “It’s a sad, but at the same time necessary experience, to move on.”
Both valedictorians said the job was a big responsibility, and wanted to make sure they did a good job of representing the entire class.
“It’s very important to know who you are individually … but at the same time knowing you are part of something bigger, a collective. And you can take comfort in knowing that you have your own space within that group and still knowing who you are,” said Findlay. “The only person that is going to put any walls and boundaries before you is yourself.”